The Free and Reduced Lunch program is a federally funded program based on student-family income that provides increased funding to the student. In addition, if a certain percentage of the school’s populace is on the program, the school receives additional funding. Since 2011, Bonita Vista High School has missed the 35% mark needed to receive Title I funding.
This year, the BVH administration has increased their efforts of getting students signed up by sending emails to parents/guardians, making informational flyers and meeting personally with students. Although no number could be provided, Principal Roman Del Rosario E.d.D. reported that there is a significant projected increase from last year’s 27 percent. Del Rosario is confident the school will surpass 35% FARL enrollment and receive Title I funding for the 2017-2018 school year.
“As an admin team, [we] all agree FARL needs to be accessible to all students that qualify. We made a team decision to push the applications so students that qualify would be able to take advantage of opportunities such as, college application fee waivers for UC and private universities. Qualifying students can also take AP tests for $5 as opposed to $95. We all agreed that these are essential tools as we continue to support our students on the college and career ready path,” Assistant Principal Jennifer Barker-Heinz said.
BVH is one of only four Sweetwater Union High School District high schools without Title I funding, including Eastlake, Otay Ranch and Olympian High School. However, Bonita Vista Middle School has been Title I funded for the past four years and are on track to qualify for their fifth year.
“My theory was that it’s the same families and relatively the same income as the middle school and that the issue was that there wasn’t enough support and there weren’t enough communications with the families on the importance of these lunch applications and that’s why there was that dip in high school,” Del Rosario said. “Not only will it help students with those waivers but once we get to 35 percent, we are eligible for Federal Title I funding.”
Del Rosario thinks there is a variety of reasons for the lack of sign-ups, for example, the high school students’ lack of communication with parents as well as not wanting to eat lunch from school. Del Rosario stated that his goals for the push was to bring more funding to the school and to better serve the community’s needs.
The additional funding must first go through the district’s Local Control and Accountability Plan to see how those dollars will be spent. According to the SUHSD Director of State and Federal Programs Dr. LuzElena Perez, “the key to best use of Title I funds is to know the needs of the most at-risk students and design goals to best support them.” Funding is expected to be used on programs such as TEAM and AVID that directly benefit the students under the FARL plan.