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The Emporia Public Schools Board of Education approved steps to continue a long-time district program during a regularly-scheduled meeting Wednesday evening.

For the past 13 years, Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) education has been overseen by representatives from the Lyon County Research and Extension Office. With the aid of a government grant, students throughout Emporia schools have received grade-appropriate education regarding food science, nutrition and the importance of food safety during meal preparation. Due to a recent retirement and cuts to federal funding at the extension office, the program was scheduled to go on a one-year hiatus.

“It’s been a program throughout our grade levels for several years, but [the extension office] came and talked to us and said that — just like a lot of organizations — their funding is being cut,” USD 253 Executive Director of Elementary Education Vicki Schweinler said. “The funding came from the USDA, which was also in contact with the Kansas [Department of Children and Families], and then that money went through Kansas State Research and Extension to our area … We wanted to help them think through some of the possibilities or other ideas to help with that.”

Upon hearing about the financial issues, Assistant Superintendent of Business Operations Rob Scheib began working with the Lyon County Extension Council in order to find a way to continue the program in some form for the 2019-20 school year. Scheib reached an agreement with the office to help cover the costs for an educator to deliver a five-series lesson to all fifth-grade classrooms throughout the district. This year, Emporia Public Schools will cover up to $10,000 in costs for SNAP education through money from its Supplemental General Fund.

“We’re hopeful that his is just a one-year thing,” Scheib said. “We’ll be able to write the grant next year with the help of a new extension agent, and then we’ll be back to where we were again, where it didn’t cost the district anything. I’ve experience [SNAP education] and I’ve been in the classroom when they were making bread in bags and emphasizing hand-washing and those types of things. I really felt that this was something that I wanted to make happen in the budget … The thing about a $40 million budget is that not every dollar is spent, but every dollar is budgeted. The dollars aren’t spent until we physically spend them, so we’ll be looking for things to reduce that won’t impact any other classroom.”

In other business, the Board of Education also:

• Accepted an $895 donation from Babes on Bikes Emporia to the EHS Cycling Club

• Accepted $3,900 of grant funding from the Kansas Masonic Literacy Center to be used to promote literacy at Logan Avenue Elementary School

• Approved the $112,416 purchase of three new 2020 Ford Expeditions from John North Ford to be used in out-of-town transportation for the district

• Approved a memorandum of understanding with CrossWinds Counseling & Wellness to continue offering mental health services in USD 253 schools.

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