EDITOR’S NOTE — Dr. Aguillard is the superintendent of the St. Mary Parish School System.
As the beginning of school looms large, the importance of equipping all students with the tools necessary for academic success comes to the forefront. During the St. Mary Parish School Board’s recent budget session, actions were taken to ensure that the needs and safety of students were prioritized in adopted expenditures.
Although economic realities forced the board to critically analyze all expenditures, the board voted to renew its annual allotment for school supplies and science materials. The progressive five-year program has acted to support parents as they seek to budget school expenses during a period of economic uncertainty.
The program assures parents can anticipate only minimal back-to-school expenditures since the school board has allocated $22.50 per student to each school for supplies, fees and science materials. The board’s annual disbursement to schools continues to assist in defraying a portion of the typical back-to-school expenses while supporting schools in the task of supplying students with needed materials or school-related fees normally required.
Students, parents and schools have regarded the program as highly successful in providing an avenue for meeting students’ material needs on the first day of school. Parents are reminded, however, that students are expected to arrive on the first day of school in full uniform. Uniform guidelines may be found on the parish website at www.stmary.k12.la.us.
The district’s ongoing emphasis in maintaining a secure environment for learning also led to the board’s approval of funding to supply cameras in the remaining regular education buses not yet equipped with this technology.
Further, the board has acted to accept the purchase of an additional school bus for transporting special services students. These decisions expand upon recent additions of 18 walk-through metal detectors as proactive safety measures for district students.
Middle and high schools, along with the alternative school, each received one metal detector, with Centerville High School getting two detectors. Five more metal detectors can be deployed throughout the parish when needed. These stand-alone detectors serve as a front line defense mechanism for ensuring student and teacher safety at school. In conjunction with security cameras and random searches, metal detectors represent the newest upgrade in the board’s comprehensive security plan.
A further item of interest to parents concerns changes in school lunch prices for the 2012-13 school year. The National School Lunch Program requires schools to offer equitable financial support for student lunches.
Section 205 of the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010 mandates a gradual increase per year until the average paid lunch price equals the difference between the federal reimbursement received for free and paid meals. Beginning in August, the gap between the average paid lunch price and the required level will be addressed with 10-cent increases annually.
To comply with this law, the cost of lunch for students in Pre-kindergarten to fifth grade will be $1.45 with students in grades 6-12 purchasing lunch for $1.70. School board employee lunches will remain at the previous year cost of $2.75. Breakfast prices will also remain unchanged; students in all grades still will be able to purchase breakfast for 75 cents.
The school system also issued a reminder to parents that students who are not present when school opens on Aug. 8 will be marked absent and miss vital information delivered on the first day of instruction. Attendance is critical given the attendance policy restrictions issued by the Louisiana State Department of Education in 2010.
Under the policy, elementary and junior high students are allowed only 11 absences during the school year. To receive Carnegie credit, high-school students must be present 94 percent of the required instructional time; thus, students in grades 9-12 are allowed only six absences per semester.
School attendance is critical for overall academic success. It is imperative that students arrive on time, in proper uniform, and ready to learn on the first day of school.