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Staffing woes hinder hot lunch program



On Tuesday, January 18 at 5:30 p.m., the Gilpin County School RE-1 District Accountability Committee (DAC) met to discuss Nutrition and Wellness, as well as the current goals for the preschool, elementary, and secondary school staff going into the new year. Discussions grew spirited over the current freeze in the hot lunch program, with concerns raised for both students and for the district’s currently strained staff.

The meeting began with a presentation by District Food Services Director Jane Yerkman on the Board of Education’s Nutrition and Wellness Policy.

Yerkman detailed how Gilpin County school cafeterias are meeting the goals outlined in the policy by providing healthy and fresh food that meets USDA and State dietary guidelines. Also detailed in the Nutrition and Wellness policy is that all meals are to be provided, without question, to hungry students regardless of the status of their meal account balances.

Yerkman and her team have customized their menus to facilitate these policy guidelines. Additionally, they are promoting healthy eating and physical activity through marketing materials and are providing nutritional meals to students for both breakfast and lunch services.

Immediately following the presentation, the status of school hot lunches was addressed. The most notable concern raised was that cutting hot lunches would decrease the amount of options for kids with specific dietary restrictions. However, Yerkman provided the committee insight into the impact that Covid and the pandemic has had on operations.

The amount of meals being served to students and faculty at breakfast has doubled, while staff has been severely reduced because district salaries do not meet the demands of the current job market. She continued by stating that the federal government does not include a budget for staffing in their reimbursement programs, and therefore the district at this time does not have the staff to continue the school hot lunch and a la carte program.

Elementary School Principal Heather Huntoon continued the meeting with the Preschool Council report, followed by the Elementary report. School staff continue their development in Colorado Shines, the improvement and support system for education and child care professionals.

For more information about this program, see www.coloradoshines.com/home.

Huntoon also stated that her goal is to increase preschool enrollment by 15, to hit the maximum occupancy of 32. Additionally, a $3200 grant was awarded to the district for playground equipment for children with special needs.

Thanks were given to the PTA and volunteers for the holiday shop being open this year, allowing students to shop for gifts for their families. Additional thanks were given to Central City for a successful Tommyknockers event this year, a local tradition that was truly missed in 2020.

Concluding Huntoon’s presentation, new staff members were welcomed to the Elementary team: Codi Ramsey, new Elementary Administrative Assistant; Alyson Brown, preschool teacher; Lisa Lopez, Kindergarten paraprofessional; and Imy Rich, Upper Elementary paraprofessional.

Secondary School Principal Alexis Donaldson presented her administrative report. This covered recent professional development workshops for staff.

Congratulations went out to all National Junior Honor Society inductees, with special thanks to sponsors Heather Newman and Ann Myers and to alumni presenter Anna Yocum. Congratulations go as well to 2022 Valedictorian Halle Yocum and Salutatorian William Hunt.

Lastly, but with great excitement, two new hires were welcomed to the Secondary school team: Tertia Cain, Math Department Interventionist, and Josanne Torres Benitez de Motchan, the district’s new Spanish language teacher.

The DAC meeting was adjourned, with parental concerns about bullying being held until next month’s meeting, following a presentation centering on informing teachers and parents about bullying specifically over LGBTQIA matters.

The DAC meets every third Tuesday of the month. The next meeting will be on Tuesday, February 15, 2022.

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