The Commercial-News, Danville, IL

June 12, 2013

D118 board learns about food


DANVILLE — The Danville District 118 school board on Wednesday heard an annual update on the district’s food service department.

Food Service Director Greg Lazzell said the district has been proactive in making sure it fulfills the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s new guidelines for healthier school meals that meet calorie and sodium restrictions.

In the last two years, more fresh fruit, vegetables, whole grains and skim milk have been gradually introduced to school menus throughout the district.

“Students need to take a fruit or a vegetable at every meal,” Lazzell said of the new requirements.

The menus throughout the district are 90 to 95 percent the same as Northeast Elementary Magnet School, which has received national recognition for its healthy school meals.

At Danville High School, snack cakes, candy and sugary drinks are no longer sold. Instead, baked potato chips or a cup of fresh strawberries are offered. Plans also are in the works to revamp the high school cafeteria, which hasn’t had a facelift in 23 or 24 years. The cafeteria will have a new look and a new name, Viking Landing, which was selected by the students.

Another change in store for DHS students when they return to school in the fall is that they will be able to purchase either a complete meal or a la carte items in every line at the cafeteria rather than waiting in a separate line.

Other food service department accomplishments in the past year include the addition of a new full-service kitchen at Kenneth D. Bailey Academy, a new kitchen and cafetorium at North Ridge Middle School and moving the free and reduced lunch application process to each school in the district, which has made it easier on parents who have more than one child at different schools.

Lazzell said the food service department accumulated an $800,000 surplus, which allowed the district to invest $200,000 in the kitchens and eating areas at South View and North Ridge middle schools and East Park Elementary School during the last two years.

A $500,000 surplus is predicted at the end of this fiscal year on June 30, however, that money is strictly to be used for the food service department because it is federal money that can be used only for food service. The surplus is used to reinvest in the district’s kitchens and to buy dishwashers, ovens and equipment.

The total food service department budget is about $3.5 million — 20 percent of which comes from the sales of food, less than 2 percent comes from state funding and the remainder is federal funding.

While state funding for food service is down $55,000, with the revamp of the DHS cafeteria and the addition of a la carte items — such as fruit juice and baked chips — at the middle schools next school year, Lazzell said he hopes the increased purchases in the cafeterias will result in increased revenue for the department.

The district serves 1.5 million meals a year, including breakfast, which has become a popular meal with students. The district’s breakfast numbers are up 5 percent over last year.

Also on Wednesday, the school board:

Superintendent Mark Denman said it will cost $25,000 to move the new concession stand that is nearly finished. The building trades class began working on the project last fall after receiving $10,000 in materials paid for by the district.

Board member Frank Young said the location of the new concession stand “interferes with the flow of traffic” at home games.

“It’s not going to be a popular place to be,” he said.

Young said he was told the concession stand had to be located there because that’s where the water source was, but he said he has since found out that’s not the case.

“A good idea would be to start over again and raise the funds to do it,” he said. “If you look at it, it’s just in the wrong place.”

Building and Grounds Director Ron Henton, however, disagreed. “I don’t think it’s in the wrong location. I don’t see where it is causing a visibility problem.”

He said the site was selected for security reasons.

“It’s vulnerable to vandalism right up against the fence and the woods,” he said of relocating the stand.

Henton added, “The boosters love it (location) because they can look out and see the game.”

Board member Lon Henderson agreed with Young. “The building is in the wrong place. It should be moved farther south. I have concerns about the construction and the location of it.”

However, board member Steve Bragorgos said he believes the concession stand project should be completed and stay in its current location.

“I think we should go ahead and proceed with it. It didn’t go up over a weekend. It was completed over several months, and it’s better than what we have now,” he said, referring to the old concession stand from the 1950s.

The new class, transitional algebra, will focus on fundamental pre-algebra skills, targeting incoming freshmen who have significant deficits in their math skills. The course will prepare them to take algebra I their sophomore year.

Dobbles, however, said, “I’m disappointed with the curricula for this class.

“We should be testing all the kids when they come to the high school,” he said.

“The idea is don’t let them fall behind,” Dobbles added. “We can’t have 15-year-olds in fourth grade, but detaining them a grade is a disservice, too.”

Board member Dr. Randal Ashton concurred, saying the need for such a “catch-up” class raises bigger questions about the district’s policy on promoting students to the next grade level.

“We’re going to have to have a huge discussion on the progression from grade to grade,” he said.