We may be in the middle of summer, but in just six weeks, Bay District School students will be back in the classroom and when they go to the cafeteria…there will be changes. One of those has high schoolers concerned.
In recent weeks, Chartwells School Dining has promised jobs, savings and delicious meals, but one thing they can't promise…Chic-Fil-A, Pizza Hut and A la Carte fast foods.
"I don't know. At this point we know that they play an important part of the community, so we know that it's something we will discuss further with them if it's something we can utilize or not," said Chartwells Director of Business Development, Christine McGoldrick .
Arnold High School senior Jordan Lenton says most of her classmates will be very upset if those options weren't available. But for Lenton herself, it wouldn't make too much of a difference, as she sticks to a healthy diet. She's excited about the healthier options Chartwells plans on offering.
"I'd probably eat lunch then," Lenton added.
But not all high schoolers agree.
"I would be a little bit upset. I hardly get it but it's nice to get once in a while," said Arnold High School Junior, Nicolas Bland.
Chartwells reps say it'll be tough to serve those products and still get reimbursements from the U.S. Department of Agriculture, the federal branch that regulates school lunches.
"We are evaluating all products because, as many know, the new regulations from the USDA went into effect July 1st , so we have to see what the product is how it matches up to the new regulations," McGoldrick added.
But district officials say serving Chic-Fil-A as an option will have to be reevaluated anyway as USDA guidelines are only getting tougher this year.
"They are such more stringent then they have been in the past. Some of those products may not meet those guidelines," said Bay District's Director of Contracting and Purchasing, John Harrison.
But for Chartwells, that's their job.
"That's what we do is taking home-style favorite foods that students like and make them a little bit healthier and we have had proven success. So, we are hoping that the students have an open mind and try different foods," McGoldrick added.
Chic-Fil-A reps say they have not talked to Chartwells yet about an agreement for next year.
As for the charter schools, they may chose to use Chartwells, but Bay Haven CEO Tim Kitts says so far, they haven't been contacted and are not interested as they participate in their own independent National School Lunchroom Program.
Resident District Manager Interviews
On Tuesday Chartwells officials and Bay District Schools leaders also interviewed three candidates for Chartwells' Resident District Manager position. All three are already employees of Chartwells. Two are from Florida and one is from Missouri. The Resident District Manager will be the liaison between Chartwells School Dining and Bay District Schools and will be the one person school officials will go to if there is a problem with performance. Bay District's Director of Contracting and Purchasing, John Harrison is confident that whoever Chartwells recommends for the jobs will bring the expertise needed in the process of privatization, even if he or she is not local.
"We want professionals doing this and that's what you are looking for is profession, people to do the work and the candidates presented are professionals food services people with credentials and so that is why it doesn't bother me," Harrison said.
As for the other positions, Harrison says Chartwells will hire local and that all of the 207 food service employees of the district now are promised jobs with Chartwells. They will being those interviews next week.