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home : local news : local news May 29, 2016

1/25/2013 1:45:00 PM
Weekend food program to help Unit 2 students
A new volunteer program aims to help Robinson Unit 2 students get good nutrition during the weekends.

The Unit 2 board Tuesday heard about NOW, the Nutrition On Weekends program spearheaded by First United Methodist Church member Michelle Elliott. The program, run by volunteers and paid for with public donations, will begin by sending home sacks of supplemental foods with 10 children identified as being at risk for hunger and poor nutrition when away from school.

Elliott explained each student who participates will get food for two breakfasts, two lunches, two dinners and two snacks. The items will be things the children can open easily and prepare for themselves without using the stove or the microwave.

Washington Elementary School principal Jason Stark said the WES faculty has identified students who might benefit from NOW.

The goal is to expand the program as funding permits. Fifty-six percent of the WES student body qualifies for free or reduced lunches.

Another school district in the area started a NOW program and jumped from 10 students enrolled to 110 quickly. Nationally, two out of five children face chronic hunger, not getting enough to eat on days when they are not in school.

"It's hard for us to believe that any kids go hungry on weekends - or at all - but it happens," board President Dennis Inboden said. "This sheds a different light on the importance of our school lunch program."

"I'm really grateful for people like Michelle and those working with her to serve the needs of the community like this," Unit 2 Superintendent Josh Quick added.

Elliott is contacting local churches and groups such as the Elks, Rotary and Kiwanis for donations. Highland Church of Christ has offered to store food for the program in the wake of the fire that destroyed First United Methodist.

Stark said he believes Elliott will soon have people "beating down her door" for the opportunity to help out.

Another group of students will soon be working to raise money on their own, after a vote by the board.

Board members Tuesday approved letting the Robinson High School Marching Maroons perform at the Chick-fil-A Bowl in Atlanta in December 2014. They also authorized the band and band boosters to raise money to pay for the trip.

The three-day, four-night trip should cost between $700 and $750 per person, band boosters President Tim Frapp said. Students who will participate in the fund raising are those who will be RHS band members in 2014 - current seventh- and eighth-graders, freshmen and sophomores. Band director Katie Zdanowski estimates between 85 and 100 students will be eligible.

While in Atlanta, the students will compete in band contests, perform in a parade and during halftime at the bowl game and participate in various educational opportunities in the city, Frapp said.

Unit 2's finances were also discussed during the meeting.

"Springfield is not coming through. Washington is not coming through," Inboden said. "The buck has been passed to us."

Unit 2 faces ending the school year $1.5 million in the red and the state is falling behind on financial support. Before the Feb. 19 board meeting, Inboden and Quick plan to meet with the Finance Committee, administrators, teachers and the Community Unit Two Education Association to discuss the district's financial situation and get input.

Ways of enhancing revenues and possible cuts will all be considered "in a careful and deliberate manner," Quick said.

"The picture isn't getting any prettier," he added. Unit 2 was fortunate to have money saved, "but it's running out."

Also Tuesday, RHS principal Troy Hickey told the board the school plans to add a "Response to Intervention" course. The program would help students who need to boost their math and reading scores.

Hickey also suggested the board tighten requirements for students taking dual credit courses through RHS and Lincoln Trail College. Under the proposal, students who fail to maintain a "C" average will not be allowed to take dual credit courses the following semester.

Both that policy and the RTI course will be voted on the board in February.

In personnel matters, the board hired Troy Jenkins as an RHS assistant girls basketball coach and accepted the retirements of bus driver Joyce Weger, effective April 1, and special education teacher Eva Hester, effective at the close of the 2016-17 school year.

Also during the meeting, the board:

• Established a Safety and Security Committee. The committee, which will include board members Von Meeks and Bill Ecton, will consider security measures at the schools.

• Heard reports from district librarians. RHS librarian Janet Jenkins, for example, said circulation is up with 1,950 books and other items checked out during the first semester.

• Approved school improvement plans for Lincoln Elementary School and RHS.

• Approved the 2013-14 LES fifth-grade musical. Schoolhouse Rock Jr. is based on the classic educational public service spots that aired during ABC's Saturday morning cartoons for decades.

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