Two Oklahoma City charter schools had to figure out a way to feed hundreds of students days before class started, after the public school district dropped them from the lunch program. The letter in July from OKCPS came as somewhat of a surprise to the administrators at Dove Science Academy.
“I imagine it had something to do with budget cuts and that sort of thing, so that kind of led us to figuring out options,” said Dean of Students for Dove Science Academy, Jason Mack.
Nearby charter school Harding Junior Prep broke ties with the district to serve food through a caterer six years ago under similar circumstances, so that is where Dove turned for help.
“Us being able to call someone and say, ‘Hey, we’re in a bind,’” said Mack. “We have 500 kids that need to be fed, 300 kids over at our elementary school that need to be fed, and they were gracious, so incredibly gracious.”
Keystone Food Service now prepares breakfast and lunch for Dove's students at Harding for the high school and at Seeworth Academy for the elementary school while Dove builds its own kitchen at the high school. Added staff members drive the meals over just in time for hungry kids.
“You see us at the last minute really rushing. That way we get it over there, and we have warmers over there that we put it in, but it’s just timing,” said Keystone manager Brenda Seley.
“It’s kind of the charter school movement,” said Harding principal and superintendent Dr. Mylo Miller. “Do what you’ve got to do with what you have and what little you have.”
An added benefit, according to Mack, is that now more students are getting the balanced nutrition they need.
“A lot of the kids were just choosing not to eat or they would bring their food from home,” Mack said of their time with the district’s program. “This year I’d say 90 percent of our kids now eat lunch and breakfast everyday here.”
Contracting with Keystone is costing Dove an additional $5,000 to $10,000 per year than the school was spending with OKCPS. The biggest expense will be the kitchen at close to $100,000. The Dove Public Charter Schools Foundation is covering the costs.
Dove hopes to complete its kitchen by October. Keystone will then prepare all the breakfast and lunch at the high school and drive meals to the elementary campus. Mack says the city has been helpful in expediting the code and health inspection process.