RSU 9 Food Services Director reports struggling budget despite increase in food access

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FARMINGTON – The Regional School Unit 9 school board met on Tuesday night to receive an update on the superintendent search as well as a school nutrition update.

Chairperson Angela LeClair gave a report to the board on the status of the superintendent search committee, which met last week to begin organizing an interview committee.

“We were very thoughtful in our choices and feel that we have assembled a balanced interview panel that involves a variety of staff, as well a parent and a community member,” said LeClair.

Emails went out yesterday notifying the selected members of their position on the interview committee. Once the selected individuals confirm that they can make the dates and mandatory training then the panel will be considered complete.

Leclair hopes the panel will be complete by the first week of March.

Interim Superintendent Monique Poulin reported that the administrative team is working on a plan to prepare for the decreasing cases and for students to potentially return to campus. Poulin reported that they have started implementing a finalized plan that was crafted with the administrative team with the goal of bringing more kids back to campus within the required guidelines.

The Director of Food Services, Andrew Hutchins presented to the board an update on the status of food service in the district.

“The USDA decided to allow schools to opt into feeding under the summer food service program, which is what we were operating under last spring,” said Hutchins. “It allows a lot more flexibility on the administrative end, the menu planning…most importantly it allowed us to feed all students regardless of their free or reduced lunch status for free. It eliminated the need for us to charge for meals.”

Meals have been available for pick up at school locations for hybrid/remote learners, but the turnout has been quite low. Disappointed with the low numbers, Hutchins moved to get a delivery service in place.

“February 1 we began a meal delivery service for those families that just can’t get to a school to pick up meals and it absolutely exploded from day one. We are serving roughly 125 students everyday, so it’s 250 meals going out every morning,” said Hutchins.

As well as feeding the kids it will bring an estimated $84,000 in reimbursement from the state.

The district’s food services are self-sustaining for the most part, relying on meals served to pay for overhead. With the lack of students being served income is being disrupted.

“This year, despite our best efforts to get as many meals served as possible we’re looking at about a loss of $120,000. We’re just not serving enough meals to pay all the bills, so we are going to dip into our fund balance,” said Hutchins.

Despite the predicted loss, nothing will need to put into the budget and there will be around $150,000 left in the fund.

The board entered executive session to discuss labor contracts. Upon returning board member, Jeffery Harris made a motion.

“I’m going to make a motion that the board ratify the tentative agreement reached between the board’s negotiation team and the Mt. Blue Education Association for memorandum of agreement and enter into said agreement with the Mt. Blue education association. I further move that the board authorize the chair to execute the memorandum of agreement on behalf of the board,” said Harris.

The motion passed and the board adjourned.

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