JOLIET – Joliet Township High School District 204 wants to opt out of a state-mandated breakfast program that district officials said would be too costly and difficult to run.
Plus, district officials said they already offer full breakfast programs at their three schools and that a large percentage of students use the cafeteria in the morning to socialize, not eat breakfast.
“Breakfast is not a real popular meal for them. Many students come in already and just stand in the cafeteria. They listen to their music, they socialize, they do their homework, they’re on their computer,” said David Gray, the district’s support services director.
The program called Breakfast After the Bell is required for every public school where at least 70 percent of students are eligible for free or reduced price lunches in October of the preceding year. Gov. Bruce Rauner signed the program into law in August.
Under the program, breakfast must be provided to students after the instructional day officially has begun.
In Gray’s memo about why district officials should opt out, he said the district would not be fully covered by state and federal reimbursement to run it, and it would pose difficulties with class scheduling and require more staffing and equipment.
If the district ran the program, the projected loss would be $220,051 for all three schools in the first year, according to a district cost analysis.
Joliet Central High School and the alternate school at District 204 would be required to run the program. Joliet West High School would be exempt, as only 46 percent of its students are eligible for free or reduced price lunches.
In order to opt out, the board will have to hold a public hearing and notify the Illinois State Board of Education. The board then would have to pass a resolution and submit it to the ISBE.
District 204 currently offers a full breakfast program at the three schools. An average of 591 breakfast meals are served daily.
Students who qualify for free meals receive breakfast for free, while those qualifying for reduced price meals pay 30 cents. Other students pay $1.80.
According to Gray’s memo, the new program would require additional expenses to the district, including:
• Refrigerated coolers and carts to distribute meals with milk.
• More staff to prepare meals, stock carts and deliver them to classrooms or kiosks.
• Additional custodian resources to clean classrooms.
• More computers and scanners for food service.
Gray also said adding extra time between second and third period of the school day so students can buy a meal in the cafeteria either would require class periods to be shortened or the school day to be extended.
Additional security would be needed for extended passing periods, and an extended school day would affect employee contracts and extracurricular activities.