Tardy wheels, fewer meals: Cafeteria jobs on the line

The Southerner

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Children are always told breakfast is the most important meal of the day. For the cafeteria workers at Grady, the phrase has taken on a whole new meaning. In fact, their jobs may depend on it.

“Eighty percent of days, students are allowed into class late,” Lawrence McCurdy, who is in charge of clearing the C200 hallway in the mornings, said.

This sudden administrative leniency toward attendance is on account of school buses, or more specifically, a lack of them. As the tardiness continues, students find that they have less time to eat their school-provided breakfast. As sales drop, the possibility of budget cuts loom over the cafeteria staff.

Assistant Principal David Propst said school begins at 8 a.m., and the buses should always arrive prior to then.

Due to budget cuts and last year’s rezoning, Grady’s bus fleet has been reduced from 15 to 12. Buses now have to pick up middle school students as well, making a timely arrival at Grady difficult.

Besides the issues of inconsistency and poor student attendance, the late buses have a negative trickle down effect, particularly on the cafeteria staff.

“Last year the cafeteria staff served breakfast to 225 students every morning, this year we’re only serving 160,”  said Eugene Lundy, the cafeteria staff manager. “This drop is a direct result of the late buses.”

Grady’s state funding for cafeteria staff is based on the amount of students receiving free and reduced lunches and overall sales.

If fewer and fewer students continue to purchase breakfast, the cafeteria staff could be downsized.

“If the kids receiving free and reduced lunch stop getting lunch, I know for a fact members of the staff will be laid off or at least transferred,” Lundy said.

The cafeteria staff prides itself on a diverse selection of lunch options. But if staff members are transferred or laid off, students’ choices could become slim, Lundy said.

“We have four lunch options for students everyday,” Lundy said. “I need people working every line. No one is dispensable.”

While administrators, cafeteria staff and APS officials agree that the tardy buses are an issue, a solution is unlikely until at least midsemester.

Fifteen new drivers recently entered a training program, said Sharol Mizell, Eastern Bus Coordinator. But these new bus drivers will not complete the training program until mid-October.

“Realistically, we need 12 more buses for the middle schools as well, but that’s not going to happen,” Propst said.

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