GRAFTON, Mass. — Student lunch purchases have declined 2 percent since newer, healthier menus were implemented, say three representatives from the company that serves meals in the Grafton schools.
Although financial numbers were being tabulated, the decline was primarily due to price increases and resistance from parents and students who object to larger portions of fruit and vegetables, said Joseph Armenti, a district manager for the Whitsons Culinary Group.
"Students have to choose at least one fruit or vegetable on their tray," said Armenti to the School Committee in reference to the new state and federal mandates for reimbursable school lunch programs.
A negative media campaign and student protests on YouTube have added to the resistance, he said. But Grafton's drop is not significant, and students are adjusting as Whitsons tweaks the menus, Armenti said.
Whitsons brought in an executive chef three times to make adjustments on the salad bar in the high school and develop premade tossed salads in the middle school, he said.
School Committee secretary Teri Turgeon asked whether food waste was being measured. There is less waste in Grafton because students have been in the healthier meal program longer and have had more time to adjust to the new menus, Armenti said.
Also, Grafton High School Principal James Pignataro sought approval from the School Committee to revamp student report cards by Jan. 23. He and a subcommittee developed a new version: Traditional grades are on one side, and on the flip side is a chart for teacher comments plus a score of how well the student is progressing in the school's "core values and beliefs," he said.
The score would cover, among others, behavior development, critical thinking, and enhancing knowledge and skill with technology.
"The opportunity to do this now is perfect," he said. The plan is to roll out the new design to parents, then tweak the new reports throughout the remainder of the school year as feedback comes in.
The school committee will review the new design and continue the discussion Dec. 17.
Also, Special Education Director Arnold Lundwall proposed an increase in the fiscal 2014 special education budget from $2.36 million to $2.65 million to cover the rising enrollment of special needs students and the costs associated in transportation, collaborative resources, therapy and out-of-district tuition.
Superintendent James Cummings proposed increasing the technology budget by 7 percent in fiscal year 2014. This would cover new hires on the technical staff as well as infrastructure and hardware upgrades, he said.