LUMBERTON — Robeson County students won’t have to worry about footing the bill for school lunches during the 2014-15 school year, thanks to the implementation of a new program which education leaders say will save both parents and the district countless dollars.
After months of awaiting approval, the Board of Education for the Public Schools of Robeson County officially announced at Tuesday night’s meeting that the district had met the eligibility requirements for participation in the Community Eligibility Provision National School Lunch Program.
The national program would allow Robeson County schools to serve free lunches to all children, regardless of their financial status, with the exception being Robeson Early College High School, which would not qualify for the program because it doesn’t offer a breakfast option.
As the program reimburses the school system for every plate served, district Chief Finance Officer Erica Setzer says the district is currently estimating a revenue gain of more than $400,000.
The program eliminates the need for the system to collect individual applications for free and reduced price meals. Currently, of the 24,000 children in the Public Schools of Robeson County, 83.68 percent receive free or reduced cost lunch. Under the new program, all students would be provided free lunches.
Tuesday night’s meeting, which marked the start of a new fiscal year for the district, also saw the swearing in of four school board members: Mike Smith, Dwayne Smith, Brenda S. Fairley-Ferebee and Peggy Wilkins Chavis, by Robeson County Clerk of Superior Court Shelena G. Smith. Of the four, only Chavis is not an incumbent.
Chavis took the seat previously held by former school board member Severeo Kerns, of District 3, who lost in his bid for reelection during the May election when Chavis earned 46.16 percent of the vote.
Ferebee, who was the only other board member to face opposition in the election, was reelected as school board representative for District 2 with 62.66 percent of the vote. Ferebee has served on the school board for 18 years.
“It feels great to be at the start of a new year,” Ferebee said. “I think this will be one of the best years fiscally for the district.”
Chavis, a former teacher, has been attending every school board meeting since May in an unofficial capacity as a way of preparing for her new role.
“I am overwhelmed,” Chavis said. “I have visited with all of my schools and I am looking forward to getting started.”
The school board voted to elect Mitchell Locklear as the board’s new chairman and Mike Smith as the new vice-chairman.
In other business:
— The district financial report and budget amendments were approved.
— The board heard an update on the status of the district’s summer school program.
— Local high school athletes who received state recognition were recognized.
— Christie West, Clyde Leviner, and Sherry Park were announced as the new principles of East Robeson Elementary, Purnell Swett High School and R.B. Dean Elementary, respectively. West will be replacing Melissa Flowers, who will be switching to Peterson Elementary.
Leviner will take the seat formerly held by Antonio Wilkins, who takes the helm at Magnolia Elementary.