By Terry Dean
PTOs that sell lunches as part of their fundraisers may not have to find an alternate funding source after all.
The District 97 Board of Education approved an application waiver to be sent to the Illinois State Board of Education that would allow PTOs to sell healthy lunches.
State regulations generally prohibit competing food sales during school hours within food service areas in buildings. Waivers can be sought under special circumstances. The board approved the waiver application at its April 25 meeting following a public hearing on the request as required by state law.
Donald Robinson, Dist. 97 assistant superintendent for finance and operations, said the state application will go out this month. Dist. 97 applied for and received a similar waiver five years ago. In the last 10 years, only one other school district in Illinois received such a waiver. The new waiver, if approved, would be for five years. Robinson said he expected quick approval from the state sometime in June.
Parents, PTO members and representatives of Percy Julian Middle School's CAST and Gwendolyn Brooks Middle School's BRAVO! programs spoke during the roughly half-hour hearing.
CAST program director Kathy Simon was not able to attend the hearing but on Monday said the performing arts program annually raises $20,000 a year from selling pizza and McDonald's items every other Wednesday during the school year.
BRAVO! raises about the same amount selling pizza and hot dogs. Both menus will change next fall, Simon said, when the district expands its pilot lunch program to all schools. Oak Park and River Forest High School will provide healthy lunches to the district. The board is scheduled to approve an intergovernmental food service agreement with the high school at tonight's meeting. The state requires that healthier lunches be served in schools.
Simon said the student performance arts program might have been required to cut the number of auditions and staff if their main funding source were taken away. Their next highest fundraiser is the Henry Reid Scholarship which raises about $4,000 a year.
"If we didn't have that money, we wouldn't be able to hire these directors and set designers, and we would have had to turn away kids, which is something that we've never done before," she said.