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School lunches' fed funding uncertain after March

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Students eat lunch in the Camden Middle School cafeteria, Friday.

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By Reggie Ponder
Staff Writer

Wednesday, January 23, 2019

Federal funding for child nutrition programs in the public schools continues to be an area of uncertainty as the partial shutdown of the federal government begins its second month.

At a school board committee meeting Tuesday, Elizabeth City-Pasquotank Public Schools Finance Director Andrew Cox said the N.C. Department of Public Instruction recently advised school finance directors that regarding the shutdown, continued federal funding for school nutrition programs is DPI’s “only area of concern” right now.

School officials have already been assured that child nutrition funds will be available through March.

Elizabeth City-Pasquotank Board of Education Chairwoman Sharon Warden asked Cox what would happen if the shutdown went beyond March.

Cox said he’s not sure, though he added the state might provide temporary funding to keep child nutrition programs in operation until federal funds became available again.

Officials in area school districts said last week they haven’t modified menus or made other changes so far. However, they acknowledged they are watching the federal funding front closely.

School officials have pointed out that families affected by employee furloughs during the shutdown can fill out applications for their children to qualify for free or reduced lunches.

In another matter on Tuesday, the ECPPS board adopted a resolution supporting local control of the school calendar.

“We’re just following suit with the boards of education across the state,” Warden said.

Board member Denauvo Robinson asked if school districts in neighboring counties would try to coordinate their calendars if they had local control.

Interim Superintendent Joanne Sanders said school districts would look at the school calendar as a region.

“There will be regional cooperation and collaboration if we get the opportunity to have this local control,” Warden added.

Warden said she had already communicated with Pasquotank commissioners about local control of the calendar, and she expects they’ll adopt a similar resolution, just as county commissioners have in several neighboring counties.

The school board also voted to hold its Feb. 25 meeting at Northeastern High School in order to recognize the Eagles football team for its runner-up finish for the state championship last year.

ECPPS Maintenance Director Frankie Floyd also reported that representatives from Helios Energy will meet with him and Cox Feb. 7 to review findings of a recent energy audit for the school district. The findings of the audit will then be presented to the board on Feb. 18.

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