USD 443 officials apologized to parents Monday for a miscommunication concerning changes to elementary students' lunch size.

    In an attempt to minimize waste and more closely match young kids' appetites, the School Nutrition Program began serving smaller lunch entrees this year to kindergarteners, first- and second-graders.

    The school district sent parents a letter Monday apologizing for the miscommunication and explaining the situation and its resolution.


USD 443 officials apologized to parents Monday for a miscommunication concerning changes to elementary students' lunch size.
    In an attempt to minimize waste and more closely match young kids' appetites, the School Nutrition Program began serving smaller lunch entrees this year to kindergarteners, first- and second-graders.
    The school district sent parents a letter Monday apologizing for the miscommunication and explaining the situation and its resolution.
    The School Nutrition Program followed state and federal guidelines recommending reducing portion sizes for children in kindergarten through second grade, Superintendent Alan Cunningham said in the letter.
    The program also made these changes to curb waste as well as encourage small children to select more fresh fruit and vegetables, which are almost always available for children to eat as much as they want.
    USD 443 Board of Education President Dan Reichenborn said the school district was not trying to cut corners.
    "We do have a lot of food being thrown away, and that's a concern," he said. "But we also don't want children walking away from lunch still hungry."
    Since this change occurred, many parents have had questions and complaints.
    The biggest concern for parents was that they were being charged for a full-size portion even though their children were only receiving half-size portions, said Claudette Katzenmeier, who has a son in second grade at Northwest Elementary School.
    "If they are going to reduce the size of lunch, can the price be reduced?" asked Katzenmeier. 
     Board members answered her questions, and Cunningham said that the district decided to give students the choice of either smaller portions or the larger portions that third- and fourth-graders receive.
    "Because a number of parents have expressed their concern for the recent changes, and because it is the right thing to do, we have determined that the younger students, in kindergarten through second grade, will be offered the choice of either the smaller entree portion or the same size entree that is offered to the older students," he said in the letter.
    After the issue was discussed, Katzenmeier said she was fine with the explanation of the change and the proposed solution to the problem.
    In other business, the board:
    • Unanimously approved a plan to expand the district's support of the Community Education Opportunity program for expelled and long-term suspension students.    
    The program is designed to help at-risk students keep up with their studies and participate in motivational activities to improve behavior.
    "This is another option to continue education and stay in school," said Cunningham.
    The program has been housed at the Ford County Sheriff's office for 14 years, but it can no longer take place there.
    The 16th Judicial District Juvenile Services program has stepped up and created a service reporting center to help continue the program. The new, larger facility will be located on the fifth floor of the Bank of America location at 617 N. Second Ave.
    The school district been a partner in the CEO program for more than a decade and will provide additional support.
     The school district's estimated contributions to the program for the year are $54,802, which will pay for 30 percent of the director's salary, furniture and two full-time paraprofessionals. 
    Juvenile Services will provide $25,646 for rent, utilities and 60 percent of the director's salary, and Area Mental Health will supply case management services.
    The Ford County Sheriff's Office and the Dodge City Police Department will continue to be involved by conducting daily security checks. Also, United Way has tentatively agreed to continue its financial support.
    • Approved a plan to dispose of retired high school band uniforms that were replaced this school year. These will be distributed in several ways, including giving senior band members graduating in 2009, 2010 or 2011 the opportunity to have the overlay at the end of their senior year.
    In addition, the Dodge City High School Drama Club and the Depot Theatre will be offered the uniforms for future productions. Five complete uniforms will be archived for historical purposes, former Pride of Southwest Kansas band members will be able to purchase the uniforms ($20 for the complete uniform and $10 for the overlay) and the Dodge City Women's Chamber will purchase 150 of the white cowboy hats at a nominal fee.
    Any remaining uniforms will be donated to the Dodge City Salvation Army.
    • Approved a revision to the Dodge City Middle School Student Handbook banning the use of cell phones, digital music devices, laser light pens and other devices during the school day.
   
Reach Cherise Forno at (620) 408-9931 or e-mail her at cherise.forno@dodgeglobe.com.