2007-10-20 / Schools

Lakewood saving money on bussing, lunches

By Kim Garee

HEBRON - Lakewood school officials are optimistic about money-saving changes in food service and transportation.

In a time of increasing state mandates and school funding challenges,Lakewood Director of Pupil Services Arnie Ettenhofer gave the school board cheerful fiscal news at their Oct. 10 business meeting.

Ettenhofer came armed with estimated figures from the district's cafeterias that show increased state reimbursement rates for the month of September. Ettenhofer and Food Service Director Mary Jennie have worked in tandem since last year to encourage student purchases of "Type A" lunches or equivalent food combinations that garner more reimbursement for Lakewood. Ettenhofer said Lakewood received $10,000 more in state reimbursement last month than in Sept. 2006.

In addition, he said the district served 12,000 more breakfasts in September than the same time last year. Middle and high school breakfasts are free to students. Ettenhofer said free-and-reduced lunch data is being reviewed by the state to try to make that same thing happen in other buildings.

Additional food service savings have come in four fewer fulltime cafeteria employees due to closing the cafeteria at Jackson and through attrition. About 35 percent of Lakewood students qualify for free-and-reduced lunches.

Meanwhile, Ettenhofer was happy to answer a question posed more than a year ago by residents regarding transportation costs related to the recent re-alignment of elementary grade levels. He said many asked if it would end up costing the district more.

"We found it did not cost more money," Ettenhofer stated.

Thanks to the diligence of Transportation Supervisor Mike Whittington, Ettenhofer said rerouting the bus routes is actually saving the district an estimated $156 a day in wages and, even with higher fuel costs, $1,000 less in fuel for September due to approximately 6,000 fewer miles driven. Lakewood runs 26 busses and four vans total every day.

Board President Tim Spitzer thanked Ettenhofer, Jennie and Whittington, saying their time and energy are "duly noted."

"It looks like the attention we're giving it will, systematically, bear some fruit," Spitzer noted.

In other business, the board's policy committee will be meeting with other school officials in the near future to discuss whether or not to alter an existing policy on interscholastic athletic eligibility.

Superintendent Jay Gault said the existing policy follows the minimum Ohio High School Athletic Association (OHSAA) guideline for number of credits required for a student to be eligible to play sports. Individual districts have the option to add grade point average (GPA) requirements on top of that - something Lakewood has not done to date.

Board member Judy White, who is a member of the policy committee, said she thinks a GPA requirement would be a positive addition to the policy. She said she wants to discuss it as "a larger issue than just policy."

The other board representative on the committee, Forest Cooperrider, however, said he feels they should "not change a policy that is working."

Gault asked board members to comment on their opinions. Member Joe Bowman Jr. said he thinks the established guidelines from OHSAA are reasonable.

He said he doesn't want to risk excluding students due to situations that may be beyond their control.

Spitzer said he didn't feel they had the data or numbers to know the impact of how such a requirement would actually affect eligibility. "I know with the standard we have in place, we've still had people sitting on the fence in terms of being able to participate, and a GPA requirement could knock them off …. My opinion is that, before we decide to change the standards, let's look at the data to see the impact of that," he said.

Gault said he would put together a group, including the athletic director, to meet with the policy committee about the issue.

The levy committee has opened headquarters on the second floor of the old Hebron Municipal building. Spitzer, who co-chairs the committee with Bowman, said literature and signs are available there, as well as opportunities to make phone calls and volunteer, from 5 to 9 p.m. on Mondays and Wednesdays and from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Saturdays.

The committee will host a Public Forum about the two levy issues facing Lakewood voters on Oct. 25 at 7 p.m.

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