School Distict 43 cafeterias changing
School cafeterias will undergo a transition in September as School District 43 looks to cut spending while also keeping revenues afloat to balance the budget.
Students at middle school will still be able to hang out in their cafeterias next year but won’t be able to buy hot meals as the kitchens will be closed — and approximately seven cafeteria positions eliminated to save money.
The district hopes to save approximately $145,000 with this cut to help defray a $13.4-million budget deficit for the 2014/’15 school year.
At secondary schools, students will still be able buy food at their cafeterias but it will cost 10% more and there will likely be fewer cooks to make and serve it as the district looks to carve another 14% in spending from its budget.
Cafeterias are costly to run but they also generate revenue; last year, SD43 collected approximately $1.7 million from cafeteria sales. Secretary treasurer Mark Ferrari said the district hopes to generate more revenue with higher meal and snack prices, although that’s not a guarantee as some students may decide to take their business elsewhere.
IMPACTS WORRY UNION
And the union representing cafeteria workers is concerned about the changes, especially the impact on teaching cafeterias that provide students with job experience in addition to supplying schools with hot lunches.
Dave Ginter, president of CUPE Local 561, said the district should do more to run cafeterias more efficiently instead of cutting jobs, such as was done in the mid-1990s when his union studied the issue to re-open cafeterias after they were closed to save money.
Ginter is also concerned that the loss of staff — through hourly reductions to cafeteria cooks and culinary assistants at five secondary schools on top of the loss of seven jobs at middle schools — will result in fewer sales and lower revenue, and make cafeterias even more costly to run.
Two of SD43’s three teaching cafeterias — Centennial and Riverside — could see hourly reductions but no staffing reductions are planned for Gleneagle. The other high school cafeterias affected by proposed reductions are at Dr. Charles Best, Pinetree and Terry Fox, although reductions are still being negotiated.
Ginter wants to see equipment from the mothballed middle school cafeterias sold to help defray costs at the schools that run culinary arts programs for students.
“It doesn’t affect the honour [role] students,” Ginter said of the teaching kitchens, “but it affects those other kids because it’s a place for them to move ahead.”
Ferrari said there are no plans to change teaching cafeterias at Gleneagle, Centennial and Riverside and he said he expects the programs to run as normal.