The education minister will legislate universal lunch supervision with no user fees this fall.
“The legislation will be effective in September of 2009 that no students will have to pay in any school. It will be universal,” Karen Casey said yesterday. “We’re giving the Halifax board a year to work that through.”
The Education Department has no plans to help the Halifax regional school board — currently the only board in the province that charges parents for lunch supervision — pay for it, a spokesman said.
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“Other boards are managing to do it, so our expectation is that Halifax can do it within the funding resources that we give them currently,” Peter McLaughlin said.
Lunch fees became controversial last fall after a group of Fall River parents publicly opposed paying the school board’s $200 fee levied on French immersion and walking students who want to stay for lunch.
Liberals responded by introducing legislation intended to eliminate the fees. Board staff threatened to dismantle the lunchtime supervision program altogether unless the province ponied up to help fund it.
The board maintains lunch isn’t part of the instructional day as outlined in the teachers’ collective agreement and is not its responsibility.
Many parents were outraged at the possibility of losing the “valuable” child-care service and said they were quite happy to pay.
In light of that, the board recently passed a new lunch policy that says parents whose children live within an appropriate walking distance to school still have to pay, but the program can no longer generate profit.
Peggy Aikenhead of Fall River said yesterday she’s pleased with the minister’s plans, but still won’t pay supervision fees for her son in 2008-09.
“We shouldn’t be paying extra to send our children to public school. It’s not fair for (only) some to have to pay,” said the mother of two.