During its July 18 meeting, the Salem School Board was advised it would need to raise prices to meet a directive that it continue to move prices toward the federal reimbursement rate, the amount the federal government pays for students who receive free or reduced price lunches.
The federal reimbursement rate for breakfast has been $1.96 and the reimbursement for lunch is $2.94.
The board raised the new school year student price by a nickel a meal, 85-cents for breakfast and $1.30 for lunch.
Adults will pay 2.05 for breakfast, a 30-cent increase over last year, and $3.00 for lunch, an increase of 10-cents.
While the federal government helps schools with food costs for low income students, the reimbursement does not pay for the whole cost of a meal, so school funds are needed to help with cafeteria expenses, and the Salem cafeteria "lost money" last school year.
"To your credit, our board has always tried to keep costs down for parents and students when it comes to lunches and they are about as low as they can possibly be," said Superintendent Ken Rich.
Rich noted Salem schools' meal prices are still among the lowest around, and the cost will probably go up about five cents a year for the forseeable future.
Under new nutrition guidelines, the cafeteria is switching to more healthful wheat bread and skim milk. But, according to Rich, those changes will not substantially increase the food budget.
The board also supported a recommendation that the price of season passes for athletic events be raised.
According to Rich, the current price of $30 a year for adults is too low, considering the increasing cost of athletic equipment and paying referees, umpires and other officials.
The board approved raising adult season passes from $30 to $40 and student season passes from $20 to $30.
While students have been off enjoying a break this summer, Rich, maintenance workers and contractors have been busy with school improvements.
"All in all, a very busy summer. A very short summer," Rich told school board members during the meeting. "We have about four weeks (left) to get ready."
Rich mentioned that crews were finishing up the project to seal and re-stripe the high school parking lot.
In addition, work was underway to improve traffic flow in and out of the campus. A portion of land next to the driveway entrance at Highway 62/412 is being used to widen the driveway to create three turning lanes at the highway.
"In an effort to get three turning lanes, two exit and one entrance lane, we are widening. It's wide enough at the highway but it narrows down and there's a bottleneck," Rich explained.
An area of new concrete was poured along the drive to improve traffic flow, as drivers enter and exit the school.
Concrete is also being poured to replace asphalt at a spot of road near the gymnasium, that school buses tear up on the way to and from the elementary school.
When school opens, elementary parents will find three lanes have been created for student drop off, to make it safer for students to get out of vehicles in the parking lot and safely on to school grounds.
Staff will be present the first week of school to help parents get used to the drop off lane system.
"Grass is growing real well," Rich told the board, discussing another outside project, the rebuilding of the Greyhound Stadium playing field surface. The newly graded field is draining well, as an automated sprinkling system waters new athletic grass sprigs.
"That grass is really growing fast," said Rich. "I've been taking pictures once a week and it really is amazing what a week will do. So in seven weeks, we should be in great shape there (for the first home football game)."
Inside the schools, 42 Star Boards have been installed in classrooms. The boards, also called Smart Boards, connect to a computer, allowing students and teachers to go to the board and use it like a touch screen computer, an educational tool that can be used for many types of lessons. Teachers will receive special Star Boards training when they return in August.
Rich said another summer project was the installation of air conditioning in the high school weight room. According to Rich, the temperature often reaches 100 to 105 degrees and, with the new cooling system, students are working out in much safer 75 to 80 degree temperatures.
"Coaches have received training this summer for hydration and heat," said Rich.
When school starts, there will be a mandatory meeting with parents and football players, to discuss new precautions to insure the safety of student athletes who practice outside in the heat.
Those precautions will include coolers with ice, more frequent water breaks and the weighing of athletes before and after practices.
"We want to make sure they are hydrated. We want to make sure they are not over-heated," said Rich. "Unfortunately, in practices last year, there were two football players in Arkansas that actually died in practice in August."
The Salem School Board will hold its next meeting on August 15 at 7 p.m. at the Superintendent's office.