The number of Carthage R-9 school district students eligible for free or reduced lunches has grown by 30 percent in the last six years, school board members heard during their regular meeting Monday night at Fairview Elementary School.

The number of Carthage R-9 school district students eligible for free or reduced lunches has grown by 30 percent in the last six years, school board members heard during their regular meeting Monday night at Fairview Elementary School.
Janeane Myhre, the district’s food services director, updated the board on her program as part of a comprehensive school improvement plan evaluation. Myhre noted three improvement targets: increasing identification of students who are eligible for free or reduced lunches, providing staff training to improve the food service program’s effectiveness and efficiency, and improving the nutritional value of foods served to students.
The number of eligible students identified has increased from 2,151 in the 2008-09 school year to 2,790 in the last academic year. The number of free and reduced breakfasts served has climbed from 161,112 to 202,809, while the district served 381,299 free or reduced lunches last year, compared to 283,339 six years ago. That’s a nearly 26 percent increase in breakfasts and a more than 34 percent increase in lunches, and the district only served meals 170 days in the last school year, down from the usual 175 days because of weather cancellations.
Overall participation in breakfasts and lunches served by the district has increased by nearly 19 percent for both in the same period; 480,324 lunches were served last year.
Data analysis also found that a significantly higher percentage of students eating breakfast at their schools are in the free or reduced program as compared to those being served lunch. Last year, roughly 90 percent of breakfasts served were free or reduced meals, compared to 58.5 percent of lunches.
Free or reduced lunch applications were mailed to households prior to the start of the school year, and 194 were returned and processed prior to the first day, while 1,749 direct certified students were identified.
According to Myhre’s report, food service staff are trained throughout the year and are given updates on current USDA meal requirements and reviews of the new Smart Snack Nutrition standards.
As far as improving the nutritional value of foods served, the district has introduced whole grain products and added a soup and salad bar at the high school.
“I’ve limited the juice we serve to once or twice a month and we serve more fresh fruit for the students,” Myhre said. “Another thing I’ve done is added a soup and salad bar at the high school and that’s well received.”
Another soup and salad bar will be opened in the junior high, and the district has applied for a grant to place on in the middle school. The district also purchased a cooler at Fairview to store additional produce.
Myhre also reported she has located a vendor to locally source produce from farmers in Missouri and Kansas.
When asked if she’s been successful making fresh fruits and vegetables appealing to students, she said new food items are served three or four times so they have a chance to catch on.
“I do try to limit the things that end up in the garbage can,” she said.
The board also heard a report on the transportation services program from Dr. Mark Baker, the assistant superintendent for business. The district purchased a computer routing programming system in 2007 to improve bus transportation, has created new bus routes to accommodate for growth and purchased four additional 83-passenger buses for the upcoming school year and one 29-passenger bus for the Early Childhood Special Education program.
The district has also received its 12th-straight Fleet Excellence Award from the Missouri State Highway Patrol for “exemplary” bus inspections after achieving a 95.7 percent inspecting rating on its buses.
“We’ll continue to push that with our drivers and our mechanics,” Baker said.
The district installed digital cameras in the front and back of buses a few years ago and is now adding cameras in the middle sections to help identify issues such as vandalism and bullying.
“It’s just unbelievable how much it helped us in discipline or refuting what actually took place,” Baker said.
He said the biggest issue in the next three years will be reconfiguring bus routes as the district opens new schools. Redistricting will also have to be a big discussion item with the board to accommodate new home construction.

Summer School
Summer school lasted just 15 days to account for snow days and give maintenance and custodial employees time to prepare buildings. According to Scott Ragsdale, the new middle school principal, 1,834 students were enrolled – 41.7 percent of total student population – and there was an 86 percent average daily attendance through all buildings, taking into account students who enrolled but never came.
At the high school, 475 students passed 545 classes for half a credit each, and two students graduated.