Breakfast service has been suspended at two Roaring Fork District high schools, and a third program is being evaluated amid staffing shortages and low student participation in the high school meal programs.
District officials informed parents and students at Roaring Fork High School in Carbondale and Basalt High School that breakfast would no longer be served as of Monday, at least for the time being.
Two district food service managers resigned recently, explained Michelle Hammond, food services director for the district. With a lack of applications to fill those positions, the decision was made to halt the two breakfast programs, she said.
“That doesn’t mean that one day we wouldn’t be able to open the program back up again,” Hammond said.
The decision was not solely due to a lack of staffing, she added, as student participation in all three district high school meal programs, including Glenwood Springs High School, has consistently been low.
At Roaring Fork and Basalt, only about 10 to 20 breakfasts were being served per day, out of a student body of between 350 and 400 students at each school, Hammond said.
Glenwood Springs High, with around 1,000 students, has been serving about 40 students during both breakfast and lunch, she said.
“With open campus, there are so many other food options within walking distance,” Hammond said.
According to Shannon Pelland, assistant superintendent and chief financial officer for the school district, the status of the high school food service programs is constantly being evaluated.
“The status of those programs has always been a little up in the air,” she said. “And with the severe staff shortage, we have little choice but to reconsider funding those programs.”
Currently, the district has three unfilled kitchen manager positions and two cook positions.
“While we continue to explore creative ways to attract new employees to these positions, we are faced with the immediate problem of not having enough staff to provide our current level of offerings,” according to the letter that went out to Roaring Fork and Basalt families.
In the meantime, available staff is being moved to where the highest participation is, which is in the elementary and middle schools, Hammond said.
Middle schools in the three district communities have about triple the participation as in the high schools, and the elementary schools see about 10 times the number of students eating school-offered breakfast and lunch, she said.
The school district maintains a staff of 30 food service employees, but most of those positions are part time and do not include benefits, Pelland said.
The starting wage for a cook in the district is $14.30 an hour, and for a kitchen manager is $16.86.
The district has tried to entice employees to create a full-time position by combining a food service position with some other support positions, such as building and grounds, custodial or bus drivers, Pelland said.
Currently, three employees have combined student transportation and cook positions to become full time, she said.
The seasonal staffing shortage has also impacted building and grounds, Pelland said.