At a work session June 25, the Mecklenburg County School Board voted to allow all of the division’s elementary schools to take part in the federal Community Eligibility Provision that lets schools serve free breakfasts and lunches to all students. Director of Finance Christy Peffer said Chase City Elementary School was the only county school in the program this year. The division will be reimbursed by the federal government based on the percentage of students who would already qualify for free lunch, such as those who participate in SNAP.  

“For us to be successful in expanding it to four elementary schools, we have to increase breakfast participation by 16 percent,” Peffer said.

Peffer said that she and Food Services Supervisor Robin Moore believe that increase, and more, is achievable, as currently only 267 of South Hill Elementary’s nearly 800 students eat breakfast. 

“We do have some ideas in place that we plan to implement in the schools to make breakfast a little more accessible for everybody to grab,” Peffer said. 

By a vote of 5-1, the school board also increased the signing bonus for certain positions from $1,500 to $5,000. The bonus applies to new teachers in math, special education, Spanish, and secondary science, the last of which the board designated as hard to fill at the same meeting. Board members Brent Richey, Dora Garner, Wanda Bailey, Dale Sturdifen, and Gavin Honeycutt voted for the measure, while Glenn Edwards voted against it. 

In addition, the board voted 5-1 to approve updates to the student handbook and code of conduct that allow high school students to use their phones before and after school and at lunch. Students have not been allowed to use cell phones at all.

Board members Richey, Garner, Bailey, Sturdifen, and Edwards voted for the updates. Honeycutt voted against them, saying that he did not want to see the division give in and make adjustments for whatever issue might arise next.

“There has to be consequences to bad behavior,” Honeycutt said. 

Bailey and Sturdifen referred to phone use as more of a soft skill the division could help kids learn to use appropriately. 

“I think it gives a good opportunity for us to embrace where we’re at,” Sturdifen said. “When I was in high school we didn’t have cell phones. The societal norm is now we have cell phones, we have to accept that. They’re not going anywhere; there just going to continue to expand.” 

The school board also heard an update on the divisions’s preliminary test scores for 2018-2019. Results indicate that the only SOL subjects with less than a 70 percent pass rate were history at Bluestone High School and La Crosse Elementary. 

Students who attended the school’s pre-K program did not perform as well as the division had hoped, but Tracey Rogers, the director of elementary curriculum, assessment, and data analysis/federal programs, suggested that means the division is reaching the right students.

“I’m interpreting this that we’re doing a good job of reaching those at risk students, not all of them, but at least some of them; however, I would like to see that, you know, after having a year of Pre-K with us, that things would be even better than this,” Rogers said.