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School lunch and milk costs rise, along with sports fees

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GROTON — In a series of belt-tightening decisions, the Groton-Dunstable Regional School Committee voted to increase the cost for students to participate in school sports programs as well as the cost for school lunches.

Both decisions were forced on the committee by the increasing expense of sports supplies and the rising cost of foodstuffs.

As recommended by Janice Buxton, the schools’ director of food services, committee members voted to increase the cost of school lunches, to take effect in the 2009 academic year.

Meals at the high school will cost teachers $3.50 and students $2.75. The cost of milk for teachers will rise to 65 cents and for students to 60 cents. At the middle school, teachers’ lunch will increase to $3.50 and students’ to $2.75 with milk costs rising to 55 cents and 50 cents for teachers and students, respectively. Elementary school teachers will pay $3.50 while students will pay $2.50 for lunch while milk will cost 55 cents for teachers and 50 cents for students.

Votes by the School Committee at their meeting of May 7 will raise the cost of participation in high school sports to $250 per student, per activity. Fees were also raised to $150 at the middle school level.

A suggestion to raise user fees above $250 for hockey and skiing was also considered but committee members held back pending further study of the request.

At the recommendation of the superintendent, the School Committee also voted to extend the district’s contract with Dee Transportation for school bus services.

There was some good news for the district, however. After negotiations, the cost increase for transportation services for the two years remaining in the 3-year agreement were reduced, from an agreed upon 6 percent to 7 percent down to only 1 percent, making for big savings in tough financial times.

Voting in favor of the new rates, the School Committee approved transportation costs that will see $274 per bus per day charged in 2009 and $280 per bus per day in 2010; $60 per bus per day for midday transportation of kindergartners in 2009 and the same for 2010; and $2.85 per bus per mile in 2009 for waiting times at athletic events and $2.95 in 2010.

With bleak finances on the horizon until further notice, the School Committee voted to establish a Cost Savings Think Tank, charged with reviewing the district’s current cost-saving measures, explore new potential cost savings, and to make recommendations to the committee upon completion of its charge.

The think tank itself would be composed of seven to nine members, made up of School Committee members, district staff and citizens at large. The think tank would, in the words of School Committee member Berta Erickson, “think outside the box” in looking at ways for the district to cut expenses.