Committee balks at program enrollment
Following a special meeting of the Acadia Parish School Board Wednesday evening, committee meetings began, which gave members the chance to hear a variety of reports.
The item that got the most discussion Wednesday night came during the Budget/Finance Committee meeting. The decision whether to enroll the Community Eligibility Program or not will wait another few weeks, at least as board member David Lalande motioned to move the discussion to the full board. It was met with unanimous favor.
Prior to the decision, the update on the potential program was met with general disagreement. The program is open to Louisiana for the first time next school year. According to the parish’s supervisor of child nutrition program, Adrianne Vidrine, it would allow the school district to lock in its reimbursement rate for four years, a plus for the school district.
The program, presented by the federal government, will allow school districts to offer free breakfasts and lunches to students attending schools in high-poverty areas based on the percent of identified students who are eligible for free/reduced lunch (meaning those who have turned in forms and were approved).
Initially, Vidrine introduced the program as a pilot program with all six Crowley schools, but at the urging of the board, updated the list to show all schools that would qualify for the program.
Added were six more schools – Armstrong (Rayne) Middle, Central Rayne Kindergarten, Church Point Elementary, Church Point Middle, Martin Petitjean (Rayne) Elementary and South Rayne schools.
Vidrine noted that the program is designed to save families in high-poverty areas some money. If the board were to implement the program parishwide, it would lead to a massive loss of federal reimbursement money that the Child and Nutrition Program is already getting.
Shamsie vocalized his problems with the Ward 4 and Ward 5 areas being left out and expressed his belief that families in the two areas will definitely voice their displeasure.
Saying he understands Shamsie’s point, Lalande added that he didn’t think the board should throw away a program that could help some families in the parish.
“It’s a federal government program,” he said. “We didn’t decide to offer this program to Acadia Parish, the federal government did.
“Our position is, in my opinion, do we take advantage of that for at least a portion of our population or do we say that just because some people might get mad we’re not going to do it for everybody?”
Shamsie still disagreed.
“I just think that there is going to be a lot of upset people in the Iota and Fifth Ward area,” he said. “Whenever people think about the lunchrooms in Acadia Parish, they think of Acadia Parish, not the federal government. Whenever they get mad at the lunch, they get mad at Acadia Parish, not the federal government.”
Bourque suggested the board might consider waiting to see how other districts take to the program and join later.
The item, as well as others, will be voted upon at the board’s May 5 meeting at 5 p.m.