By Tony Parra
The number of students eating breakfast at James Elementary doubled to more than 450 on Thursday as free breakfasts were offered to everybody at the school.
Second and third-graders at James Elementary began eating at 8 a.m. and finished approximately 15 minutes later. Michael Terry, James Elementary principal, said previously there were about 253 students who were eating breakfast in the cafeteria.
“For the first day everything went smoothly,” Terry said. “Shirley and her crew have done a good job of planning ahead.”
Terry said meals are now offered to 478 children in the various classrooms in the elementary school.
On Thursday, the children went into their classrooms and received specific directions for handling the breakfast. In Joe Ortega’s class, students were told to make sure their parents brought them to school by 8 a.m. for breakfast.
Destiny Muller, second-grader, said she always eats breakfast at school and wasn’t worried about spilling anything because she’s used to eating at school.
“It was very good,” Muller said about Thursday’s breakfast. “My favorite breakfast is oatmeal.”
Morgan Howl, second-grader, said he enjoyed the sausage and egg hot pocket on Thursday morning. Howl said he also had some cereal at home before he went to school. He said his favorite breakfast is cereal.
Brittany Bricker, second-grader, said she liked the breakfast meal, too, but admitted her favorite meal is dinner because there’s plenty to eat and her mom cooks it.
Ortega went over the rules for the 21 students in his classroom before they began eating. Ortega said any students who didn’t want to eat or already ate breakfast could begin their class assignment. Ortega told the second-graders to make sure to place their garbage in the large trash cans in the hallway next to the doorway and not the small trash cans in the classrooms.
The new breakfast program is a state-funded program for the Portales Schools and the district received $22,445 to be able to prepare and serve free breakfasts for all of the kindergarten through fifth-grade students, according to Shirley Chatterton, food service director for the school district.
The $22,445 was for equipment and lost revenue from the paid meals from parents. Chatterton said the state provided the money because the school district failed to meet Adequate Yearly Progress.
“There is a correlation between proper nutrition and student performance,” Chatterton said. “It’s tougher for students to focus if they’re hungry.”
She said state officials did not tell her whether the district would receive money for the fall semester, but said she hoped the program would continue because so far there has been good feedback from students and principals.
Becky Flen, Steiner Elementary, said she has noticed a calming effect throughout the school and children are not as hyper.
Chatterton said the custodians are picking up the large trash cans from the hallways to throw the trash away. Chatterton said when the students were eating in the cafeteria the custodians had to clean up and empty the trash cans in the cafeteria.
The teachers are provided with gloves to serve the food and hand-sanitation pumps.
The breakfast program started at Steiner Elementary on Jan. 3 and at Valencia Elementary on Monday. Brown Elementary students will begin eating free breakfasts on Tuesday.
Chatterton said the cooks are having to prepare approximately twice as many breakfast meals for each of the schools. She is monitoring the program at each of the schools. The enrollment at Brown Elementary is 303, Steiner Elementary 243 and Valencia Elementary 436.