VOLUSIA COUNTY, Fla. — The Volusia County School district is making one last push to get families to fill out their free and reduced lunch application before the deadline Friday. It could affect how much funding the school system receives, officials say.
What You Need To Know
- Volusia calling to request that families complete free lunch applications
- The number of forms filled out affects other funding, too, officials say
- Five Volusia schools lost Title I designation this year
- Even fewer families have put in applications for the upcoming year, officials say
At Mainland High School in Daytona Beach, parent liaison Trisha Scheuerman works to help students achieve every day. But helping students has been more of a challenge this year, as Mainland was one of five schools to lose its Title I funding last school year. It’s not because of a lack of need but because not enough families submitted applications for free and reduced lunches, she said.
“A school earns their Title I funding based on the percentage of students in their population of student body that qualifies for free or reduced lunch, and that is tied in to the lunch application process," Scheuerman said. "We did have a downturn in some of our application numbers last year, which caused us to lose the funding along with some other schools. Districtwide, there was a loss in application numbers, and we were one of those.”
For the current school year (2020-21), Mainland and four other schools lost their Title I designation. According to the Volusia County School District, if they had they met their poverty threshold, they would have had an allocation of the following amounts:
- Galaxy Middle — $309,222
- Mainland High — $368,720
- Manatee Cove Elementary — $190,226
- Osceola Elementary — $108,102
- Pine Ridge High — $342,323
However, a district spokesperson clarified that the district’s Title I allocation remained the same. For this current year, they were awarded $19 million. That means the district still received that funding, but it could not be used at those schools.
According to staff, the free and reduced lunch forms affect the federal funding that goes to everything from classroom supplies to technology to tutoring to staffing.
This year, 44 Volusia schools are designated Title I, but more could potentially lose their funding if more applications are not submitted by the deadline Friday.
Scheuerman said she lost her salary because of lost funding and now just volunteers.
For high school students, the benefits are particularly valuable and not well-known, she said.
"The additional benefits are waivers for college applications, which is a huge savings, Scheuerman said. “Waivers for ACT and SAT testing for our student-athletes that qualify to do an NCAA application, it waives that fee as well, and then there are discounts on internet, eyeglass referrals. There is a lot of stuff that is tied to free and reduced lunch applications."
While Mainland’s principal hopes to get the school’s Title I designation back for this year, that is in doubt because even fewer parents are completing forms.
“We are somewhere between 65% and 70% total of students that are eligible that have returned them back,” Mainland principal Joseph Castelli said.
He attributed the drop in form completions to the COVID-19 pandemic because so many students remain at home. School officials are now calling parents one by one, explaining how easy it is to submit the form online.
“It is a very fast process so I tell them it takes about 5 minutes,” Scheuerman said. "Whether they are denied, accepted, reduced, or free, every applications counts."
In the spring, the district will find out which schools qualify for Title I funding for the next school year.