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The Times

PORTAGE — A little strapped for lunch money? Relax, Portage Township students. You can still enjoy your pizza or chicken nuggets.

The Portage Township School Board revised the meal charge policy for students who cannot afford a hot lunch. Under the new policy, even students unable to pay for a school meal can still receive the same items as their classmates.

Under the previous policy, students who could not afford lunch received a supplemental meal, such as cheese sandwiches or peanut butter sandwiches, that provide the same nutrients as the regular daily meal.

The policy revision was scheduled to take effect in July, but board members on Wednesday accepted the recommendation of board member Wilma Vazquez to make the revised plan effective immediately.

A regular Portage Township lunch costs about $3, said Superintendent Amanda Alaniz. Some township students pay a reduced fee, while others qualify for free lunches.

Alaniz reported that some neighboring school districts offer free across-the-board lunches. Those districts, she said, qualify based on the number of students on free and reduced lunches. Currently, the superintendent reported, two Portage schools could qualify, but the end result would be a loss in funds to the corporation.

In other business, after hearing a report on how technology enhances student performance, the board was reminded that technology can break down, and, as Alaniz commented, “It comes with a cost.”

Alaniz is studying the breakage costs of take-home computers. The school corporation distributes 4.000 iPads to students, which are returned at the end of the school year and reissued in the fall.

Families pay a $50 technology fee, which is designed to cover repairs. Students also have the opportunity to make repairs on their own as part of the school district’s on-the-job training.

“We want to make sure we have a plan in place, in order to not charge families for the breakage,” Alaniz said.

The school system contracts with an outside firm that inspects breakages and reports back on repair costs.

Board Vice President Cheryl Oprisko noted, “We’re spending a lot of money to fix screens.”

Oprisko added she wanted to know “where we are” with breakage costs, especially since computer care is part of the district’s current five-year technology plan.

Willowcreek Middle School hosted the board meeting, during which WMS teachers Grace Hillsmier and Jeanette Barich and two students demonstrated how technology is increasing student advancement.

The board also awarded a contract for seven 54-passenger buses to Midwest Transit. The Illinois-based firm was the low bidder, Alaniz reported.

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