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Keyes teachers protest breakfast program
Grievance filed over Breakfast in the Classroom program
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Teachers in Keyes have protested the school district from offering the Breakfast in the Classroom program next year by filing a grievance to stop it.

"Regrettably, the District will not be instituting the Breakfast in the Classroom program for the 2015-16 school year at Keyes Elementary School," confirmed District Supt. Cynthia Schaefer.

District officials and teachers are butting heads over the program, state Schaefer. She said that while 80 percent of the approximately 1,275 students in the Keyes district come from households that qualify for free or reduced lunches, only 20 percent take advantage of free breakfast offered in the cafeteria before school. She said that's because most parents don't get their children to school earlier to take advantage of free breakfast which starts at 7:30 a.m. Schaefer feels students would eat - and do better in school - if they could be fed breakfast in the classroom when the morning bell starts at 8:10 a.m.

"You're talking five- to 10-year olds who have to now choose to go to the cafeteria and eat versus going out to play with their friends," said Schaefer.

One source said that teachers are concerned about instructional time being lost to eating but when asked to comment, Keyes teachers union president Joni Valponi did not provide a statement "due to legal matters."

Schaefer also did not want to say much, prefacing with "I don't want to stir up any more trouble than there already is," before she shared that they are concerned about the 15- to 20-minute loss of instructional time.

"The district believes that it's a good and beneficial program," said Schaefer. "Students are fed and prepared for school versus empty hungry tummies an hour into class. If everybody came at 7:30 we couldn't handle everyone in the cafeteria anyway; the cafeteria is not big enough."

It could be managed in the classrooms, she added.

The Keyes district rolled out the Breakfast in the Classroom program for grades K-2 this school year. The district was seeing about an 80 percent participation rate in eating in the classroom while the other 20 percent were fed at home or weren't hungry.

"There are a number of issues to be worked out regarding the program, including employment issues that need to be negotiated with the teachers union. The district will continue to serve breakfast for students each morning in the school cafeteria."

Keyes is part of a national school lunch program which provides breakfast to all students.

"We qualify for 100 percent free and reduced based on our income requirements. When you reach over a certain level of students that qualify for the free and reduced then you're able to do it districtwide and our percentages are so high so we do provide free breakfast and lunch for all students."

The No Hungry Kid website, suggests a solution is serving breakfast as part of the school day instead of in the cafeteria before school begins.

State legislation in the form of AB 1240 authored by Assemblymen Rob Bonta, D-Oakland, and Tony Thurmond, D-Oakland, is seeking to take such issues out of local control by mandating that lower income districts be forced to participate in Breakfast in the Classroom.

The year 2015 was a milestone in the nation because for the first time in history over half of students in public schools in the United States come from low-income families.