Plans for feeding students in 2020-21 school year, which starts next week, were shared with the Wilkes Board of Education Monday night.

The new academic year actually started Wednesday at the Wilkes Early College High School because its schedule coincides with that of Wilkes Community College, but it starts Monday, Aug. 17, for all other Wilkes schools.

Marty Johnson, director of the school nutrition program in the Wilkes schools, said the summer meal service program will be operated Aug. 17-28. This covers much of the period in which all students will be engaged in remote learning (Plan C), which is Aug. 17 through Sept. 8.

Johnson said these meals will be available at every Wilkes school except the Wilkes Early College High School and at 10 additional community stops. He said Early College High School students may receive meals at another school or community stop.

Johnson said that after U.S. Department of Agriculture waivers allowing the summer feeding program expire on Aug. 31, the Wilkes schools will transfer back to the National School Lunch and Breakfast Program.

Starting then, only students qualifying for meal benefits will receive meals for free. This includes free breakfast and lunch meals for all Wilkes elementary and middle school students, available through the Community Eligibility program.

Johnson said only high school students who qualify for meal benefits through the traditional free or reduced application or direct certification will receive free meals since Wilkes high schools don’t participate in the Community Eligibility program.

He said meal costs are still $2.75 for lunch and $1.50 for breakfast.

During the remote learning period, breakfast and lunch meals will be served in car lines at each school from 11:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. Students in the Wilkes schools can get meals at any Wilkes school then.

Johnson said serving times will be determined by individual schools when the transition is made to Plan B, which is when each school can be filled up to half of its capacity with students learning in their classrooms.

In the Wilkes schools’ version of Plan B, students at each school who didn’t opt to continue fulltime learning the entire first nine weeks will be divided into two groups. On Monday, one group will learn remotely and the other in their classrooms. On Tuesday, they’ll switch and continue this rotation every day.

Johnson said lunch and breakfast meals will be available at the schools for students still engaged in remote learning every day when Plan B is implemented.

Students rotating between learning in their classrooms and remotely will get breakfast and lunch at their cafeterias on classroom days. These same students will get take home non-perishable breakfast meals for the next day when they learn remotely.

On days students in the rotation learn remotely, they can get lunch meals in car lines at any school. Lunch meals will be packaged in portable trays with all meal components.

The school board also unanimously approved using a National School Lunch Equipment Assistance grant of $21,000 to buy a $26,240 dishwashing machine from Alco Soap and Supply for Wilkesboro Elementary School. That was the lowest of two quotes. Johnson said the difference will come from reimbursements for meals served.

There currently is no dishwashing machine in the school, which he said means Styrofoam plates are used or dishes are washed by hand. Holbrook thanked Johnson for his diligent work on grant applications.

The school board unanimously approved a budget amendment adding $220,000 in revenue and expenses to the school system’s child nutrition operational budget. Seth Prevette, Wilkes school finance director, said this covers the cost of additional meals served in fiscal 2019-20.

The amendment leaves the Wilkes school child nutrition program with a 2019-20 budget of $6.4 million, which included the cost of feeding all youths up to age 18 during the summer meal service program.

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