Fewer students on free lunch could mean less Title I funding for Volusia schools

Funding cut could mean losing some programs

The impact of the pandemic continues to be felt in the classroom. Less students are signing up for free and reduced lunch in Volusia County meaning much needed federal funding based on those applications could be going away.
The impact of the pandemic continues to be felt in the classroom. Less students are signing up for free and reduced lunch in Volusia County meaning much needed federal funding based on those applications could be going away.

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. – The impact of the pandemic continues to be felt in the classroom. Less students are signing up for free and reduced lunch in Volusia County meaning much needed federal funding based on those applications could be going away.

There are currently 44 Title I schools the district receives federal funding to support.

“It’s a lot of money. We get $19 million we’re looking at for this year,” said district spokesperson Kelly Schulz.

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The district was hoping for even more next year. The amount it gets depends on how many students are on free and reduced lunch. Schulz said looking at the district overall, about 80% of families eligible have applied.

However, each school’s chance for some of that money depends on its own students and as of Thursday afternoon, several schools only had about 60 to 70% of their eligible applications in. The deadline is Friday evening.

“We could be looking at losing some programs, tutoring, the Saturday learning camps which are really important for many students, intervention teachers are funded through this,” said Schulz.

This is the second big wave of concern the district is feeling this school year. Schulz said it’s likely because of confusion due to the pandemic.

When schools first reopened in August, 2,000 students who were expected didn’t show up in the first 20 days. Federal funding for the entire district is normally based off that attendance. This year, luckily, the Department of Education went off estimates.

“The schools’ clerks and registrars, they have a red flag and say ‘OK, we have students that should be registered here and they’re not,’” Schulz said explaining the process.

At that time, 18 social workers sent out to find those students. Today, only 78 students are still unaccounted.

“Seven-hundred or so were retrieved back into our school district. The rest either moved away, they’re doing homeschooling,” said Schulz.

The deadline for free and reduced lunch applications is Friday at 5 p.m. Information on how to apply is available on the district’s website.