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School lunches top of mind at RCSD budget deliberations Tuesday

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James Brown
/
WXXI

The Rochester City School District’s administration and school board reviewed a proposed budget for the next school year on Tuesday evening. One basic need was at the center of a spiraling conversation.

For about four-and-a-half hours, school board commissioners, a parent liaison, and district administrators combed through the proposed spending plan.

One of the hot items within those deliberations was a budget cut in food services of just over $3 million dollars.

Commissioners Camille Simmons, Ricardo Adams, and Vice President Beatriz LeBron pushed back on those cuts.

“The only consequence of not putting money into the budget so that we can increase the quality of food services is that our students are going to be continued to be fed what appears to them to be food from jail,” LeBron said.

“Because that's what we've been serving kids, unfortunately, because we're trying to make do with what we have, and what we have is pretty crappy.”

The District’s Chief of Operations Michael Schmidt said they are factoring for ain decreased enrollment and trying to work within the limitations of the budget they have.

Later in the evening, Rebecca Hetherington with the Parent Leadership Advisory Council said when she stepped out to say goodnight to her kids over the phone, her son asked her to mention the school lunches.

“My 6-year-old this morning made his own lunch and he made himself three jelly sandwiches, and he said his friends really liked them.,” Hetherington said. “The truth is a lot of the kids he comes in contact with every day, he knows what they go home to and a lot of them are taking the jelly sandwiches home.”

LeBron and Adams said there needs to be more funding to improve the quality of school lunches for students, and provide better hours with competitive wages for lunch staff — especially at a time of heightened inflation.

Simmons said there needs to be an effort to find creative solutions to afford better food service.

LeBron noted that the budget as it currently stands has not been approved by the state education department.

The city school board meets with district officials on May 5 for the next round of deliberations, The district is slated to present the budget to City Council on May 31.