Courier staff writer
ALAMOSA — All Alamosa Elementary (AE) students now have access to breakfast and lunch free of cost.
On Monday night, the Alamosa Board of Education (ABOE) learned that AE was designated a Universal Free Lunch school for the 2012-2013 academic year. Starting December 1, parents will no longer have to send lunch money with their children, which will save families $1.25 a day for breakfast and $1.60 for lunch or $.30 for a reduced breakfast and $.40 for a reduced lunch.
“What an opportunity for all kids at school to eat lunch and breakfast for free,” said Alamosa School District Superintendent Rob Alejo.
He said the school is now able to offer meals to all 1,034 AE students because of the school’s high free or reduced meal eligibility. In 2011, the district as a whole had over 70 percent of its students eligible for free or reduced lunch, 58 percent eligible for free lunch and 13 percent eligible for reduced price lunch.
In addition, the United States Department of Agriculture has implemented new meal patterns for the school year that are changing what students are eating. The new meal patterns, which reflects the 2010 Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act, include more fruits, vegetables and whole grains; meets specific calorie ranges and contains no trans fat. For students, the new meal patterns mean nutrient-rich foods and beverages to provide the energy and nutrients necessary to grow, learn and play, and only one slice of pizza on Tuesdays.
According to a letter to parents brought to the attention of the ABOE from Alamosa School District food director Joni Bilderbeck, “the nutrition department will no longer be offering extra slices of pizza... This is necessary to be in compliance with new federal guidelines.”
ABOE considers bus grant program
The ABOE voted to apply for a National Clean Diesel Rebate Program 2012 School Bus Replacement Funding Opportunity on Monday night.
The program provides rebate incentives up to $30,000 to selected eligible applicants to replace school buses powered by model year engines ranging from 1994 to 2003 with new buses powered by a certified 2012 or newer model engine or operate solely on electricity. Eligible applicants maximize public health benefits, are the most cost effective, serve areas that receive a disproportionate quantity of air pollution from diesel fleets, include certified engine configuration, maximize the useful life of the certified engine configuration and conserve diesel fuel.
Alejo explained to the ABOE the program could enable the district to replace two buses and receive $25,000 in rebates for each purchase. It costs about $90,000 to buy a new bus that meets the program’s qualifications and, even if the district is selected, there is a 90-day opt-out grace period should the district change its mind.
Up until four years ago, the district budgeted to purchase one new bus year, Alejo said. Ongoing budget cuts and reduced funding put an end to the plan.
“When money like this is available, we need to take advantage,” said ABOE Vice President Neil Hammer.
ABOE Assistant Secretary Arlan Van Ry agreed, “We are getting two buses. It sounds like a good deal to me.”
Alejo said the district was looking at removing buses 17 and 25 from the fleet, both 2001 models, and funds to purchase the new buses might come from a combination of the general fund, savings, property sale monies and the current fiscal budget.
3A passed two weeks ago, and now the district is making plans to move forward to bring Alamosa a new athletic complex and vocation agriculture building.
Alejo said the district met with GE Johnson Construction Company representatives to discuss the project’s first steps, which include forming committees and identifying all of the overall aspects.
He added the district has also started a conversation with the City of Alamosa about the mandated street repairs.
According to a GE Johnson Construction Company report, the mill levy dollars will breakdown accordingly: $3,075,000 will fund the track and field; bleachers; press box: a ticketing and concessions building; bathrooms; first aid office; an officials building and the “Walk to Glory,” a path from the school entrance to the complex. $580,000 will fund locker rooms and an athletic storage building and other dollars will be earmarked for roadwork, sports equipment and OMS facility upgrades. The vo/ag building cost is under $1 million.