Cherry Hill board of education Vice President Joel Mayer told members during a committee report at its May 9 meeting that food services have improved staffing despite supply chain and staffing shortages last year.
“They’re still down, but not nearly as down as they had been,” Mayer said, noting the biggest food service challenge is retaining staff at Aramark, the district’s supplier.
“ … It’s a financial issue for them (Aramark), because many of the newer people they bring on, they tend to bring them at very low hourly rates, and most, or at least many, have the opportunity soon after to take the skills they’ve learned fairly quickly through Aramark and move elsewhere for more money.”
Though Aramark is working to “expand their pipeline and attract more people,” Mayer explained that it is also difficult to find people with summer soon approaching, and Aramark not having positions for new hires through the season.
Still, increased staff this year meant more services could be offered at all school levels, including a made-to-order deli sandwich line.
“It sounds silly for us, but it’s not because it’s something that these students look forward to, and they are apparently very, very busy (and) very active,” Mayer noted. “They like that particular option; they’re taking advantage of it.”
The board committee also discussed an increase in meal prices for the fall. While no action was taken, board members are expected to vote on the idea at their next meeting on Tuesday, May 23.
Compared with meal prices in other districts, Cherry Hill is one of the lowest, according to Mayer, meaning the district will likely need to increase those prices for next year or face the possibility of a “significant deficit.” Business Administrator Lynn Shugars came up with a price hike of $45,000, funds not part of the annual budget.
“If we submit our renewal paperwork showing a deficit, we’re going to get questions from the state,” she pointed out. “Particularly if we’re so far below the PLE (Paid Lunch Equity) tool recommendation.”
Shugars added that the district’s meal prices have also remained lower than the PLE recommendation in the last few years..
The meeting agenda showed the proposed increase for meal prices for the 2023-24 school year:
- At elementary school, breakfast would increase from $1.65 to $1.75 and lunch would increase from $3 to $3.25
- At middle school, it would increase from $1.90 to $2 and lunch from $3 to $3.25
- At the high school, the increase would be from $2 to $2.10 and lunch would increase from $3.10 to $3.35.
- Milk would go from 75 cents to $1.
Reduced price eligible students currently receive free meals subsidized by the state. The board hopes to discuss that once in a committee meeting before a vote at the May 23 board session.
In other news:
- The policy and legislation team discussed getting more staffers trained to administer opioid antidotes than just principals and school nurses and to be on site during regular hours and during school-sponsored events.
- Two new building principals were appointed: LaVonda Daniels is the new principal at Kilmer Elementary School and Cherry Hill West Assistant Principal Dr. John Burns has been named that school’s principal, replacing Dr. Toni Damon.
- Shugars said more than 1,500 school districts have applied for ROD (Regular Operating district) grants this year, a number that may delay their approval and that of preschool expansion grant applications.
The next board of education meeting will be on Tuesday, May 23, at 6:30 p.m. at the Arthur Lewis Administration Building.