For the 2017-18 school year, it is estimated that more than 291,000 meals will be served. That is nearly a 10,000 meal increase over the 2016-17 school year (281,482) and 43,000 more than were served during the 2014-15 school year (247,969).

According to Scott Papke, Taher, Inc. district manager, the numbers are up significantly this year, with breakfast up 15 percent over the budget and lunch up 8 percent over the budget.

More students are eating lunch today than they were just a couple of years ago, said Papke, and he attributed that to good staff and a focus on providing healthy meals that students actually enjoy.

As the numbers increase so does the fund balance, said Papke, adding part of the issue food service companies and schools face is the fact that the school meal prices are set by the federal government based on its reimbursement rate for free and reduced lunches. 

Papke said auditors will see the existing fund balance for food service and raise concerns – encouraging those involved to “work that down.”

As a result, the plan would be to offer recommendations to the school board about how to invest some of those dollars into the food service program to try and make it even better for those who utilize it.

Papke added Taher is putting together a recommendation that would focus on updating and modernizing the food service program in the district.

Papke said the challenge is that the money coming in is from families living and working in the district, and so it is important to spend it as efficiently and effectively as is possible. One of the changes may be to the a la carte service, as it is not used as much today.

The biggest increase in use is in the traditional “Type A” lunch that is being offered, and so changes may focus on improving that, he added.

Laurie Milbrandt, Redwood Area School District food service director, said the local program strives to offer new and creative ideas and to utilize local providers, such as through the Farm to School program.

“I buy as much local produce as I can,” said Milbrandt, adding each year she also buys beef from a local producer.

The local school district has partnered with Taher, Inc. for the past 27 years, said Papke. He expressed appreciation on behalf of Taher for that continued relationship.

In other action during its March 26 meeting, the school board:

• Approved a recommendation to continue with the Southwest /West Central Service Cooperative as its Internet provider for the 2018-19 school year.

According to Stephen Lien, Redwood Area School District technology director, the cooperative is going to be installing a new wide-area network to provide fiber Internet services to its member districts.

Under its current wireless Internet the Internet speed is 200 Mbps, with the new network upgrading that to 800 Mbps. Lien said there is a bit of a cost increase going with he fiber, but he believes the upgrade will help to address issues the district has been experiencing. While the initial; cost may be higher, Lien believes with fiber the ongoing maintenance costs should be reduced.

The board approved the contract for $30,288, with that rate reduced to $10,259 after E-rate. Lien added he was told the cost could decrease even more with state aid.

• Approved a HVAC maintenance service contract with NAC Mechanical & Electrical Services for one year at a cost of $23,896.

• Approved the recommendation to engage Abdo, Eick & Meyers, LLP to audit the financial statements of the school district for the year ending June 30, 2018 at an amount not to exceed $20,050.

• Accepted the resignations of Connie Lunde from her position as an assistant basketball coach and Emily Nelson from her position as an ECFE/Cardinal Kids Club assistant.

• Approved the reassignment of Stacie Hicks from her role as a high-school special education teacher to a role as a teacher on special assignment – special education coach – for the 2018-19 school year and beyond.

• Approved the reassignment of Whitney Windschitl from her role as an elementary-school special education teacher to a role as a high-school special education teacher for the 2018-19 school year and beyond.

• Approved the employment of Cassie Scharmer and Morgan Johnson as middle school track and field coaches at a stipend of $950.50 each and Brett Bergeson as an assistant football coach at a stipend of $2,966.

• Approved the employment of Britany Panitzke as a high-school student support assistant for 203 days at a rate of $14 per hour for eight hours per day; Lindy Kaden as a school readiness assistant at a rate of $11.50 per hour; Chiangkhai Her as a middle-school special education paraprofessional for 50 days at a rate of $11.50 per hour for 6.75 hours per day and Amy Haala as an early childhood special education paraprofessional long term substitute teacher at a rate of $11.50 per hour.

• Approved the hire of Zachary Stelter as a .1957 FTE middle-school math teacher at the seventh- and eighth-grade level for 39 days at a salary of $8,608 effective as of Jan. 22.

• Approved the employment of Eric Ellingworth as a .2283 FTE middle-school language arts teacher at the seventh- and eighth-grade level for 42 days at a salary of $10,500.

• Approved the employment of Kristin Rossow as a middle-school language arts and social studies teacher at a salary of $46,000.

• Approved the following teachers for tenure effective at the beginning of the 2018-19 school year: Kim Bruns, speech language pathologist; Taya Kockelman, second-grade teacher; Jackie Ourada, social worker; Kristen Anderson, school nurse; Patti Jacobson, fifth-grade teacher; Ethan Hildebrandt, seventh- and eighth-grade math teacher; Naomi Prodoehl, seventh- and eighth-grade language arts teacher; David Berner, social studies teacher; Katy Eckes, choir teacher; Katlin LeClaire, math teacher; Anne Johnson, careers teacher and Amanda Pederson, middle-school principal.

• Approved the following teachers for continuation of contract: Jennifer Anderson, special education teacher; Jessica Bratsch, special education teacher; Heather Briese, Kindergarten teacher; Angela Curry, first-grade teacher; Eric Ellanson, physical education teacher; Caitlyn Krueger, first-grade teacher; Cassie Scharmer, physical education teacher; Cassie Spanovich, second-grade teacher; Emily Swanson, second-grade teacher; Karen Zost, special education teacher; Alyssa Anderson, occupational therapist; Jessica Austin, speech/language pathologist; Kate Russell, art teacher; Logan Swann, special education teacher; Morgan Johnson, physical education teacher; Heather Vranicar, school counselor; Lisa Orren, agriculture education teacher and Brett Bergeson, math teacher.