Greensboro, NC-- You could call it a sign of the times, but whatever it is, schools are seeing the affects of an unstable economy beyond the classroom. Guilford County Schools (GCS) is reporting a new increase in students getting free and reduce lunch.
According to February 2011 data, GCS said 53.59 percent of its students qualify to receive free and reduced priced lunch.
This is the third year more than half of the district's students have been eligible for the federal free and reduced lunch program, which pays full or partial breakfast and lunch costs for students based on their family's level of need. In 2010, 53.03 percent qualified. About 50 percent qualified in 2009.
In addition to supporting meals, free and reduced lunch data is used to distribute federal Title I funding to schools with certain percentages of low-income students. The Guilford County Board of Education approved Tuesday a change to the percentage level required for middle schools to receive Title I funds. In the 2011-12 school year for an elementary school to be considered Title I, 60 percent of students must qualify for free and reduced lunch. For middle schools, 66 percent of students must qualify and for high schools, 75 percent of students must qualify.
Three schools, Andrews High, Eastern Middle and Reedy Fork Elementary, will become Title I schools in the 2011-12 school year. Three schools, The Academy at Smith, SCALE-Greensboro and Lindley Elementary, will no longer meet the required levels and will not receive Title I funds next school year. GCS will have a total of 50 Title I schools with 36 elementary schools, eight middle schools, three traditional high schools and three alternative schools.
"With the condition of the local economy for the past couple of years, it's no surprise that we are seeing more families who need assistance," said Erik Naglee, director of Title I. "The federal funding we receive for Title I is one of the tools we can use to support schools that have higher numbers of low-income students."
Along with the additional funding, GCS Title I schools receive support from the community in the form of volunteers, donations and special programs. One example of this is the Backpack Program, which is provided by community partners in at least 39 of the district's current Title I schools. The program makes it possible for students who receive free and reduced lunch throughout the week to take a backpack full of food items home to share with their families on Friday afternoons.
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GCS/WFMY News 2