CHIPLEY -- A unanimous vote Monday thwarted future requests of approval for universal free breakfast at Washington County schools district-wide.
Washington County School Board (WCSB) unanimously denied Title I schools Washington Institute for Specialized Education (WISE) and Vernon Elementary School (VES) participation in the United States Department of Agriculture's Universal Free Breakfast program, which would guarantee all students at both schools free breakfast.
WCSB meets 5 p.m. the second Monday of the month at the school district headquarters, 652 N. Third St.
The action item was packaged with a memo from the district's Director of Food Services Bobbie Dawson, which stated the vote would "cover forthcoming years" district-wide.
"That program, we always say no," said WCSB Superintendent Joseph Taylor. "It reduces the amount of money we get on the breakfast piece."
WISE currently has 100-percent free or reduced lunch for its students, with 87-percent at VES. The denial does not affect any students who are eligible for or currently receive free or reduced meals.
However, officials said the district cannot afford to fund costs for the remaining 18-percent of VES students who are currently at paying status -- which would be a requirement of the program.
Breakfast meals are $1.45 full-price per student; 30 cents for reduced.
According to Dawson, the district had repeatedly voted down the same request since the program was introduced back in 2013-2014 school year. Prior, the district had participated in a similar program that, she said, "ended up costing the district more than they could afford to run the program effectively."
Dawson suggested more families may qualify for free or reduced rates. Unfortunately, some families fail to submit an application.
"All of our parents have the opportunity to apply for free and reduced meals at anytime during the school year," she said, noting the application process is confidential and students who pay are not easily distinguishable from students who receive free meals, due to a pin-keying system.
"We always do what's in the best interest of the students," she added. "Options are there for them."
The free and reduced meal application is available online at wcsdschools.com/food-service or on paper at schools.
In other business, school board members voted to advertise for a new School Board attorney. Attorney Jeff Goodman submitted a memo stating Monday's meeting was his last day to serve as WSCB attorney as a result of being appointed the 14th Circuit Judge seat.