County Commissioner Nancy Wyse and Sheriff Jef Van Arsdall speak briefly to the School Boad
County Commissioner Nancy Wyse and Sheriff Jef Van Arsdall speak briefly to the School Boad during Thursday night’s meeting. (Photo by Brad Fuqua/Philomath News)

Beginning this fall with the 2022-23 academic year, free meals for all students regardless of family income levels will no longer be available with the Philomath School District reverting back to pre-pandemic conditions, Superintendent of Schools Susan Halliday reported during Thursday night’s School Board meeting.

Pandemic-related federal funding assistance that had been put in place to help school districts offer free meals has expired.

“We will be ending that and moving back to the need for families to apply for free or reduced-price meals,” Halliday said.

Once updated income guidelines become available, those will be shared with school district families, she said.

However, families that don’t meet the income guidelines for the free and reduced-price meal program might still be eligible for relief through the Oregon Extended Income program. Corvallis School District Food Services, the Philomath district’s meal provider, is a program participant.

“The intent of that program, which has some slightly different income guidelines, is that it will allow a larger percentage of students to be able to eat for free,” Halliday said.

From the district’s perspective, those who qualify for free meals under the EIG program will not be listed as participating in the federal free and reduced-price meals program, which Halliday said has a whole different set of criteria.

“It’s going to be encouraged to families to make those applications and for us to be able to take care of business in the way that we can to make sure our students have food each and every day,” Halliday said.

The EIG program is a component of the Student Success Act and designed to provide about 62% of Oregon students with school meals at no cost. Halliday said qualifying families will be sent eligibility notification letters.

On top of those options, each school in the district also maintains a small donation fund in situations when a short-term need may arise for student meal needs.

The changes do not impact the free meal program that is offered during the summer.

In other news out of the April 21 meeting:

• Benton County Commissioner Nancy Wyse briefly visited with the School Board during the public comments portion of the meeting to introduce them to Sheriff Jef Van Arsdall and to offer her help with the school district’s local option levy renewal effort, which will go on the November ballot. The county’s proposed Justice System Improvement Program bond does not conflict with plans for that effort going to voters in May 2023. Van Arsdall added that he has an open door and is available to board members.

• Philomath Education Association representative Len Cerny told the board that the teachers union will soon be holding elections.

• The Oregon School Employees Association and Philomath School District plan to meet on April 26 for their first collective bargaining session.

• Associated Student Body President Dylan Bell reported that the high school will host its first dance in two years with the Spring Fling on April 29.

• Board chair Rick Wells read a proclamation for Teacher Appreciation Week, which runs the first week of May and “strongly encourages all members of our community to join with it in personally expressing appreciation to our teachers for their dedication and devotion to their work.”

• Principals Abby Couture (primary school), Bryan Traylor (elementary school), Steve Bell (middle school) and Brent Belveal (high school) each provided highlights on their respective campuses with a focus on positive activities.

• Halliday during her superintendent’s report hit on several topics, including summer learning, staffing, Linn Benton Lincoln Education Service District funding-related adjustments, AVID (Advancement Via Individual Determination) Summer Institute attendance this summer for 14 staff members and highlights related to the district’s media/library programs.

• Business Manager Jennifer Griffith briefly went over enrollment numbers and impact on funding as work ramps up on the 2022-23 budget.

• Halliday reviewed graduation plans for Philomath Academy on June 10 and Philomath High School for June 11. This year’s PHS graduation will return to the pre-pandemic model of a single session.

• Halliday provided an update on the “Ready Schools, Safe Learners” resiliency framework program, saying that the district anticipates launching classes this coming fall in the same manner as it ends in June.

• Halliday reviewed professional learning details, including in-service dates, early-release days, 2021-22 activities and 2022-23 planning.

• The board discussed the process of performing a self-evaluation and decided to incorporate it into its annual retreat.

• Halliday updated the board on local option levy renewal efforts and timeline.

• The board discussed its approach to how it will perform a superintendent evaluation, which will likely take place in the coming weeks with a final report to the public in June.

• Halliday and board members Erin Gudge and Karen Skinkis indicated that they plan to attend the Oregon School Boards Association annual conference July 8-10 in Bend.

• Halliday reported that an updated memorandum of understanding between the district and Philomath Family Medicine has been completed.

• The board approved several personnel moves, including the teacher resignations of Rachael Dawes (middle school social studies), Dylan Gavin (middle school math) and Rebekah Titus (high school special education). New hires included Gary Giddens as a temporary middle school social studies teacher until the end of the school year.

• Coaching changes included the resignation of Nicholas Dudek and the hiring of two part-timers in Logan Hansen and Nolan Jackson in the baseball program.

• The board as part of the consent agenda approved a resolution to accept $175,000 in funding through a grant awarded by the Coronavirus State Fiscal Recovery Fund. The money was categorized as support services in the district’s Local/State/Federal Programs Fund.

• The board approved the second reading of policies related to the reporting of suspected abuse of a child and graduation requirements. The board tabled a vote on a policy related to “suspected sexual conduct with students and reporting requirement” pending confirmation of a correct interpretation of information.

Brad Fuqua, Philomath News

Brad Fuqua has covered the Philomath area since 2014 as the editor of the now-closed Philomath Express and currently as publisher/editor of the Philomath News. He has worked as a professional journalist since 1988 at daily and weekly newspapers in Nebraska, Kansas, North Dakota, Arizona, Montana and Oregon.