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June 15, 2013

Breakfasts, class time still up in debate

A pilot program that would provide free breakfasts to all of Gloucester’s elementary school students enrolled in Beeman and Veterans next year has drawn both opposition and support as its implementation draws nearer.

While school officials and some parents insist that the so-called universal breakfast program would lead to a more conducive learning environment, at least one parent has questioned the necessity of the program and its potential to cut into learning time.

“In a six hour period, my son would be eating three times. And since I feed him breakfast at home every morning, he would actually be eating four times,” Lisa Fornero, a Gloucester parent and teacher in the Chelsea school district has said. “I don’t think eating four times by 12:30 is healthy for children.”

According to the school district’s plan, students at Beeman and Veterans Memorial schools would be eating breakfast at 8:30, along with their typical snack time of around 10:30, and then lunch at just past noon.

A reimbursement from the state would fully fund the breakfast program. The reimbursement is available to any school with 50 percent or more of its families qualifying for free or reduced price lunch. Beeman and Veterans both into that category.

Fornero made it clear that her issues with the program lie in the potential for overfeeding the children and for cutting into the state’s required 900 hours of instructional time per year. She urged the superintendent to find a way to feed those students who would not receive a breakfast at home, but preserve classroom instruction time.

“Gloucester is giving our students a good education, but as a collective group, we can work to ensure that all Gloucester students, regardless of socioeconomic status, receive a great education and, at the same time, do not go hungry.”

Superintendent Richard Safier said he needs more time to review the potential effect on the number of hours spent learning in the classroom, but said the program would benefit learning.

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