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Bemidji School District: Free and reduced-price lunch percentages rise

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Bemidji School District: Free and reduced-price lunch percentages rise
Bemidji Minnesota P.O. Box 455 56619

A slightly higher percentage of students in the Bemidji School District receive free or reduced-price lunch this school year.

Districtwide, the percentage of students has increased from 48 percent in the 2007-08 school year to 48.5 percent in the 2008-09 school year, said Kathy Palm, director of curriculum and administrative services.

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Palm presented the district's 2008-09 free and reduced-price lunch percentages Monday night to the Bemidji School Board.

She said the district allocates Title I funding based on these percentages. Title I is a federally funded program that assists students needing help with reading and math.

The free and reduced-price lunch percentages at the district's four Title I schools - Central, J.W. Smith, Solway and Lincoln elementary schools - are above the district's percentage.

At Central, 78.3 percent of students receive free or reduced-price lunch. Also, 77.5 percent of students at J.W. Smith, 59.5 percent of students at Solway and 53.4 percent of students at Lincoln receive free or reduced-price lunch.

Federal law allows schools with free and reduced-price lunch rates of at least 40 percent to apply for schoolwide Title I funding, Palm said. Federal law, however, does not allow a school to receive Title I funding if its percentage is lower than the district's percentage, she said.

Because Northern and Horace May elementary schools have lower free and reduced-price lunch percentages than the district, they do not qualify for Title I services, Palm said. At each school, she said, 41.8 percent of students receive free or reduced-price lunch.

Bemidji Middle School, which has not been eligible for Title I funding for three years, is now eligible for it this school year, Palm said. At BMS, 49.4 percent of students receive free or reduced-price lunch.

The district, however, has not allocated Title I funding to BMS this school year. If it did, the four Title I elementary schools would receive less funding, Palm said. Because BMS has not made Adequate Yearly Progress for three years under the federal No Child Left Behind law, 20 percent of the district's overall Title I funding for this school year would have to go toward tutoring services at BMS if the school received Title I funding, Palm said.

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