LAKE CHARLES, LA (KPLC) - The Calcasieu Parish School Board voted on Tuesday to expand a school lunch consolidation experiment, adding Washington-Marion High School to a list of "mother schools" that prepare lunches for other schools within the district.
Right now, cafeteria workers at S.J. Welsh cook lunches for Positive Connections; Pearl Watson Elementary prepares meals for Lake Charles Boston Academy; and DeQuincy Middle School cafeteria workers make lunches that are distributed to nearby DeQuincy Elementary.
With the board's approval Tuesday, Washington-Marion will prepare lunches for the Career Center, Reynaud Middle and Southwest Marine and Adult Education starting this fall.
The district says it's a way to increase efficiency and save money.
"We're already [doing this] at three [schools] right now that are already working out tremendously," said Assistant Superintendent of Human Resources and Auxiliary Services, Gary Anderson.
Anderson said the "mother schools" are located near the schools for which the meals are prepared for to prevent high fuel costs in transporting the lunches.
"I'm not big in adding anything outside the classroom but I think if we don't do this, we're going to be spending money in the long run on food costs, labor costs and inefficiencies," said CPSB member Billy Breaux about his decision to support the food prep consolidation.
Breaux's fellow board member James Karr said the food prep consolidation is a process that moves the district forward.
"When you have an opportunity to move a cafeteria department forward with no more than what we're looking at, I think it would be real negligent on our part not to give our support," said Karr.
Other school districts around the state already have similar food preparation processes in place.
Anderson said the food prep consolidation is part of a larger plan for the district, but said any district-wide reorganization would be gradual and take time.
"We have to walk before we run," said Anderson.
The board also voted to create two field supervisors, add 30 cafeteria workers and increased the pay for certified managers. The additional workers are needed because the district will start serving more meals made from scratch rather than processed. Cooking meals from scratch requires more time and workers.
REYNAUD COULD REMAIN OPEN
The board also gave the superintendent the authority to keep Reynaud Middle School open for at least another year, if the district does not hear back from the Louisiana Board of Elementary and Secondary Education (BESE) by the end of the week (close of business Friday).
Even though the parish board voted to close the school, the state must give the district its approval before the school is actually closed.
So far, the district has not received any response from the state.