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Meals now free at all AC Schools

All students in the Anderson County Schools system will get free breakfast and lunch starting Jan. 4.

Anderson County Schools Board of Education passed the measure unanimously among those present at its Thursday, Nov. 9 meeting. School Board members John Burrell and Dail Cantrell were absent. School Board member Andy McKamey made the motion. School Board member Don Bell seconded.

“Of course, no one is opposed,” School Board Chairman Scott Gillenwaters said regarding the federally funded free meal program.

Anderson County Schools Director Tim Parrott said the free meal program had previously included all the district’s schools except for Norris Elementary School and Anderson County High School. Recently, the US Department of Agriculture lowered the threshold for schools to qualify for the Community Eligibility Provision, which is the federal funding for these free meals. Previously, free meals would be available to all students only if 40% of students were eligible individually. Now it’s down to 25%. This lower threshold allows for Norris Elementary and Clinton High to participate in the federal funding.

“I am excited about this one,” Parrott told the Board of Education.

Parrott stated in an email the federal government’s funding won’t cover the full cost of providing meals due to a rise in food prices. However, he said the school system will cover the difference.

The Board of Education also voted to sell Anderson County Schools’ Life Development Center property for $350,000 to the city of Oak Ridge. The city plans to incorporate the land, which is 12.06 acres on Old Edgemoor Road in Oak Ridge into neighboring Haw Ridge Park. School Board member Jo Williams made the motion, and McKamey seconded. That motion also passed unanimously among the members present.

Parrott at the meeting announced workers had poured all the concrete for the Clinton High School Softball Field. The school system can put up fences after workers lay out sod. A lawsuit, since settled, had delayed the project.

While the Board of Education did not vote on it, Parrott spoke at the meeting in favor of the School Board passing a resolution against state of Tennessee school voucher programs. He also condemned a program by which the state grades school systems with A through F letter grades. An official state press release described these grades as based on “overall success rate for achievement, overall growth, growth for the lowest performing 25% of students in the school and a college and career readiness indicator.”

“I think this A-F is just another way to put a negative spin on public education,” he said. He criticized state officials for not understanding schools. “The Commissioner of Education has never spent a day in a classroom as a teacher,” he said, referring to Lizzette Reynolds, Tennessee Commissioner of Education.