Free and reduced lunches soar in Coupeville

Over the past five years, the number of students receiving free and reduced lunches from the Coupeville School District has nearly doubled.

In the 2006 to 2007 school year, 23.8 percent of the students participated in the free and reduced lunch program. By the current school year, that number had climbed to more than 40 percent in the elementary and middle schools. Last year, 37.6 percent of the students received free and reduced price lunches.

The free and reduced price lunch provides an indicator of the number of low income students that attend schools since they have to meet income guidelines in order to qualify.

Coupeville School District Superintendent Patty Page cited several reasons for the increase. The struggling economy is a factor, but she also mentioned that applying for the program is now easier and that is prompting more families to participate. She said typically more participation in the lunch program occurs with middle school and elementary school students.

A higher percentage of students in the Coupeville School District now participate in the subsidized lunch program than students in Oak Harbor. During the previous school year, 30.4 percent of the students received assistance to pay for their lunch.

Page said ethnicity isn’t a primary driver of a student’s education, rather it’s socio-economic factors, especially if such factors increase stress and strife in their family life.

Such an increase in students from lower income families does pose challenges to teachers, but it’s not as much of a challenge as students in larger school districts. Coupeville’s small size allows teachers more time with all students, Page said. She noted that teachers don’t know which students are using free and reduced lunches; that information is strictly confidential.

The Coupeville School District receives federal Title I money, which helps fund education programs geared toward low income students. Page said those dollars are spent at the elementary and middle schools.

While the number of low income students in Coupeville schools is  increasing, the amount the district receives has remained stable. The school district has received between $122,000 and $131,000 in federal Title I dollars over the past three years. Page said census information determines Title I funding a school district receives.

The state does track low income student performance and, generally, the Coupeville School District’s students are keeping up with expectations.

According to the Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction website, the elementary school and the middle school met adequate yearly progress standards for low income students in all areas except reading at the middle school level. As for the high school, there were too few students for information about low income students to be reported.

Because the Coupeville School District is small, low income student performance on several areas of the exam isn’t reported out of concern such students could be identified, which would be a violation of federal privacy regulations.


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