School lunches

Nashville public school jobs and district-wide free lunches will be cut amid a $7.5 million budget deficit.

If the current proposed budget passes, 35 jobs will be eliminated with 25 of those positions being repurposed.

The districtsaid affected employees, which include social workers, truancy, counselors and support service positions, are eligible to re-apply for the new positions if qualified. Employees in the departments were warned of the impending cuts.

Changes to district-wide free lunches

Along with job cuts, the school district will no longer provide free lunches to every student, a program that replaced the free and reduced program in 2014.

All students receive free lunches under the current program, regardless of family income. The program, which has been almost entirely covered for four years, would cost the district about $8 million next year.

Ken Stark, the district’s operations officer, said 74 schools will remain under the free program, while families at other at the other 75 schools will file paperwork to receive free or reduced lunches.

The reason for scaling back is due to fewer students qualifying for federal assistant programs, he said. More than 60 percent of students qualified for free lunches in 2014, with 47 percent now meeting the criteria.

Eligible students will continue to receive free or reduced lunches, provided families meet the income requirements. Stark said Metro is currently working on an electronic form, as opposed to traditional paperwork.

“We hope that the process makes it easier for [families] to complete the application,” Stark said.

Metro schools will continue to offer free breakfast to all students.

The district will revisit its eligibility program next April to see if more schools quality for school-wide free lunches. Mayor David Briley has encouraged the school board to reconsider, as have current and former district employees at public hearings.

With the budget still undergoing public hearings, the district will present the budget to Mayor David Briley on April 18 before going before Metro Council for approval around mid-June.

MNPS seeks to fill vacancies

While the district works to finalize next year’s budget, it also seeks to fill hundreds of positions for the next school year, especially jobs in high-need subject areas like math, science and foreign language.

Deborah Story, the district’s chief human resources officer, said they will face more than 300 vacancies at the end of the academic year. About 50 educators have signed for the next school year, and the district is on track to fill more positions, she said.

In an effort to fill those positions, Story says the district is partnering with an organization called EdForce that helps non-traditional teaching candidates become licensed to teach. She says the district also needs to strengthen its relationships with colleges.

“The schools that have the best relationships (with universities) have the best candidates,” Story said. “We are going to do all we can to ensure that we have no, or very minimal, openings at the beginning of the next school year.”

The next board meeting will be Tuesday, April 10 at 2601 Bransford Ave. in Nashville. A public hearing on the budget will be held following the meeting.

Regular meetings are held on the second and fourth Tuesday of each month. You can keep up with meetings here.

Dylan Skye Aycock is a Nashville-based journalist and photographer. As a reporter for Rover, Aycock follows transportation, housing and retail trends, as well as other hyperlocal and city-wide issues that affect residents in Green Hills and Belle Meade.

She previously contributed written and visual content to The Murfreesboro Pulse, American Songwriter Magazine and The Tennessean. Aycock earned a journalism degree from Middle Tennessee State University, where she honed her craft as editor-in-chief of Sidelines, the university's student-run publication. When she's not out on assignment or live-tweeting city council meetings, you can find her discovering new local spots or catching a show at one of Nashville's many music venues.

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