Beginning Monday, all students in the North Knox School Corp. will eat for free.

Superintendent Darrel Bobe on Wednesday, during a meeting of the board of trustees, announced that the school corporation, with help from its food provider, Aramark, successfully applied for and received a grant from the U.S. Department of Agriculture that will pay for breakfast and lunch for every North Knox student through the end of the year.

“This is a great thing. I’m really excited about this,” Bobe said. “Not only are we helping kids who are struggling to get a good lunch, but even families who can afford it, they won’t have to furnish that $20 per week per kid for lunches.

“They can spend that money on other things, stimulate the economy in other ways,” he said.

As for those students who have opted for virtual education due to COVID-19, the free lunches will be made available for pickup each week, Bobe said.

“Getting ready to go into the holiday season, I just think this is a good thing for our families,” he said. “Families with multiple kids, this is going to save them a lot of money.”

The school board also on Wednesday held the required public hearing on its more than $32 million 2021 spending plan.

School corporations across the state have drafted their budgets for next year quite carefully as they prepare for what they anticipate will be cuts due to tax revenues lost due to COVID-19.

As is customary, Bobe said he is advertising a higher tax rate of $1.28 per $100 of assessed value; he expects it will settle out about 80 cents instead.

“We’ll have to battle through these numbers knowing that what I’ve presented is high; I know the state will cut us some,” he said. “So this is just one of those situations where we’ll be conservative with our budget. We’ll probably come up a little short over last year, but we’re doing fine.

“We’ll get through it.”

Included in the budget for next year, in terms of capital improvement projects, Bobe said is new flooring at the Junior Senior High School as well as Phase III of a project to replace all the lighting there as well.

The Junior Senior High School, too, will see the other half of its parking lot repaved in 2021.

Bobe also is planning on redoing the bathrooms at both the Intermediate and Primary schools next year.

Bobe also updated the school board Wednesday on some ongoing construction projects at the Junior Senior High School, specifically a new concession stand for the baseball and softball fields as well as a new multi-purpose facility.

Both, he said, should be complete by the middle of November.

Bobe is particularly excited about the new 14,000-square-foot multi-purpose facility, which will largely be targeted towards members of both the baseball and softball teams but will be made available to anyone for a variety of uses. It will also feature batting cages and can be use by a number of extracurricular organizations, from bocce to band.

“All the concrete finished, all the steel is up and they are working on the roof now,” he said. “I’m really looking forward to getting that done.

“It’s a bit bigger than I anticipated, but it will be really nice for us to be able to utilize that space.”

And in other business, the school board approved a calendar for the 2021-22 school year, one that “mirrors” this year complete with week-long fall and spring breaks as well as two weeks off at Christmas.

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