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School cafeterias always seem to invoke images of mashed potatoes being dished up with ice cream scoopers and kitchen staff wearing hair nets but during the regular Los Alamos Public School board meeting Tuesday night, the Los Alamos Middle School cafeteria was creating a far different vision.
The image of a cash-strapped department was what board members received.
Having previously asked for $10,000 to cover expenses for the cafeteria, which has the only functional kitchen in the district, Business Manager John Wolfe said an additional $25,000 was needed.
The board approved the request but agreed the issue needed to be further reviewed because as newly elected vice president Joan Ahlers said, “I don’t see how we can continue to do this.”
Wolfe told the Monitor Wednesday a survey will be conducted and data will be presented to the board.
The cafeteria funding will come from lease funds.
June Gladney, purchasing manager, explained LAMS Principal Donna Grimm urged the school board to support the cafeteria.
Gladney said Grimm had a gut feeling that if the middle school does not have access to food, achievement and scores will go down.
Some students don’t come to school with food, Gladney said, but most have money so if food is available, students will purchase it.
“The program is valuable … and (we) would like to see it continue,” she said.
Other avenues had been taken before the school board was presented with this request.
Lunch prices had increased from $3.50 to $4 and the Mountain Elementary School PTO had increased support for the middle school cafeteria.
However, the number of lunches served each day has decreased this school year, possibly because of the price of lunch rising. Also, the enrollment at the middle school has decreased, which is estimated to make a loss of seven lunches a day.
Another factor is that there have been a number of days when lunch has been served such as on EPSS in-service days or non-school days including registration or early dismissal days.
Lunches are not served on these days, but there are still staff costs to cover.
Things have come to the point where additional money for the department is considered.
“Where we are at right now, we are struggling to have (what is needed) in the bank account to make payroll,” Wolfe said.
Financial times are tight for the school district but the board learned that the district’s finances are in good hands.
Monica Yaple of Greigo Professional Services reported on the 2009 audit report. She offered a lot of good news. Overall, the district received an unqualified opinion, which is the best rating the district could receive. “It’s definitely a lot of work to get,” Yaple said.
Additionally, for the internal controls and noncompliance, the district received no opinion – no opinion is given for this particular report.
For the federal report, Yaple said the district got another unqualified opinion.
“Bottom line, it’s a great team effort,” Wolfe told the Monitor. “Everyone contributes to this … so we’re very happy.”