Northern Tioga School District is asking that families still return free/reduced meal applications this school year, even though all students in kindergarten through grade 12 will automatically receive free breakfast and lunch.

“It’s still important because it affects our Title I status,” said Superintendent Diana Barnes at the school board’s Aug. 9 meeting. “The numbers are vital to us.”

Todd Terpstra, district technology coordinator, also said the percentage of students who would normally qualify for free/reduced meals affects discounts the districts receives on internet and other connectivity services.

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the U.S. Department of Agriculture extended free breakfast and lunches across the nation through the end of the upcoming school year. Barnes said the benefit does not apply to homeschooled students, only those who are enrolled in the district.

While no application is necessary for students to receive meals for free this year, Barnes said she hopes families will still return the regular free/reduced meal applications sent home with students as in previous years.

Also at its meeting, the board approved an increase in adult lunch prices from $3.60 to $3.65. Adult breakfast will remain at $1.85.

Perkins funds

After approving the minutes from the Perkins/Vocational Stakeholders meeting held June 1, the board discussed the status of that program at the district.

“The policies put in place are hurting districts,” said Barnes. “We use that money a lot.”

Matt Sottolano, principal at Cowanesque Valley High School, explained that the funding is given to schools that offer three different vocational courses in different career clusters. However, increasingly stricter policies have made it more difficult for NTSD to be eligible. He said the requirements favor schools with dedicated career and technology centers.

“We thought our welding program would be a perfect fit, but there are so many hurdles,” said Sottolano. “Marty Heyler has been teaching welding for 39 years, but he has to have a vocational certificate after working as a professional welder for so many years. So, he’s not qualified to have a CTC-approved welding program. That’s ridiculous.”

Barnes said she and Sottolano met with State Rep. Clint Owlett to seek assistance. Owlett then organized a Zoom call with representatives from Perkins, the Pa. Department of Education and Congressman Fred Keller’s office.

“Clint was very receptive. We were really hoping he can work at the policy level to get something changed,” said Barnes, adding that if PDE and Perkins can’t offer a solution, that Owlett said he plans to introduce legislation to help.

The board also:

  • Accepted the resignations of Amy Coots, district principal of academic affairs; Megan Button, teacher at Williamson; and Sophia Sprunger, teacher at R.B. Walter.
  • Accepted the intent to retire of Keith Robbins, teacher at Williamson High School, effective July 2, 2022.
  • Announced a vacant seat on the school board after Ian McLaughlin resigned effective Aug. 1.
  • Presented a certificate of appreciation to Cowanesque Valley High School student Chelsea Wattles, who achieved the Silver Award, the highest offered in Girl Scouts.
  • For her project, she collected art supplies to donate to the school district last year.

Announced the next meetings of the Northern Tioga School Board are a work session at 6 p.m. Monday, Aug. 23, and a regular meeting at 7 p.m. Monday, Sept. 13.

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