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By LeAnn R. Ralph
COLFAX — Ahead of the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) eliminating the free meals program for all students, the Colfax Board of Education has increased lunch prices by 10 cents and breakfast prices by 25 cents.
The free meals program is expected to be done at the end of the school year, said William C. Yingst Jr., district administrator, at the Colfax Board of Education’s April 25 meeting.
The USDA began the free meals for all students program as a response to the COVID-19 pandemic to help schools to be able to re-open safely and return to in-person classes.
Governor Tony Evers closed schools statewide in March of 2020 due to the pandemic.
Schools in all states had been granted a waiver to serve meals through the Summer Food Service Program or the Seamless Summer Option program, even though the schools were closed.
Colfax, like many other school districts in the spring of 2020, either delivered meals to students at home or allowed parents to come to school to pick up meals for their students.
When school started in the fall of 2020, school meals remained free for all students and were free through the 2020-2021 school year and the 2021-2022 school year.
There is no indication the USDA will continue the program, Yingst said.
Families are being encouraged to pre-pay lunch money for their students now rather than wait until August when they also have expenses for school clothes and school supplies, he said.
The Colfax school district has placed a focus on parents paying for school lunches online, and the convenience fee will be waived from May 1 until August 31, Yingst said, noting that people with a mobile phone can scan a QR code to gain access for pre-paying school lunches.
According to information provided to the school board, the Colfax school district has not increased breakfast meal prices since 2016-2017 when the school district joined the federal breakfast program, and lunch prices have not been increased since 2017-2018.
The Colfax school district served 5,000 more meals this school year than were served in the previous year, Yingst said.
And while the school district’s food service fund has a positive balance, supply chain issues have increased the cost of food significantly, he said.
Throughout the school year, Yingst has been reporting on continuing supply chain issues and noting that school menus have had to change from day to day or week to week due to what was — or was not — available for the food service department to order.
The Colfax Board of Education unanimously approved increasing lunch prices by 10 cents per meal and breakfast prices by 25 cents per meal.
Meal prices for 2022-2023 will be $1.50 for breakfast at Colfax Elementary, Colfax Middle School and Colfax High School.
Lunch prices at Colfax Elementary will be $2.70 per meal.
Lunch prices at the middle school and high school will be $2.85 per meal.
“Any time we can feed a high school kid for under $3 is impressive,” commented Jaclyn Ackerlund, school board member.
In other business, the Colfax Board of Education:
• Learned that the Colfax school district has a .93 Wisconsin Worker’s Compensation experience rating. That is the lowest experience rating in the last four years and is good news for the district, Yingst said.
• Approved a resolution authorizing the transfer of funds and the establishment of an escrow account for the defeasance of certain general obligation refunding bonds dated March 2, 2017. Approving the resolution and establishing the escrow account allows the school district to prepay debt, which is like prepaying on a mortgage, Yingst said. The money will be applied to the outstanding debt in March of 2025 and will result in a savings of $330,000 in interest, he said.
• Approved Early College Credit Program applications for the fall of 2022.
• Approved Security Health Plan as the health insurance provider for the 2022-2023 school year. The health insurance rates with Security Health Plan will represent an 8 percent increase. The Colfax School District is a member of the Northwest Health Insurance Cooperative, which has 22 school districts all together, Yingst said. Security Health Plan was the only bid to lock in rates for three years, with an 8 percent increase this year, a 9 percent increase in the second year, and a 9 percent increase in the third year, he said. The other bids included a 17 percent increase for one year, Yingst said.
• Approved Delta Dental as the dental insurance provider for the 2022-2023 school year with a zero percent increase in the premiums. Colfax is self-funded for dental insurance through Delta Dental.