Students may have to walk a little farther to catch a school bus. They may want to consider eating lunch or breakfast in the school cafeteria if they do not do so already. Boys may see something new in the school restrooms. Like everywhere else, money is tight in the Hernando County school district, and departments are trying to conserve and cut costs wherever they can. The food service department hopes to increase student participation. Food and nutrition director Lori Drenth hopes to increase interest in high school lunches by offering 18 entrees each day.
"There are lots of options," she said, including vegetarian wraps and a variety of chicken dishes.
To increase breakfast participation, Drenth said she and her staff will serve the best-selling items from last year. These include chicken biscuits, sausage biscuits, breakfast pizza and piggle sticks (a pancake wrapped around a sausage).
To encourage more kids to eat school food, Drenth sends out menus to teachers so they can pass them to students. Menus are also online.
Drenth continues to offer an online payment option for convenience. Parents can use a debit or credit card to put money into their children's accounts. Parents are notified when the accounts get low. Accounts also can be set up to be credited automatically. Parents also can log on and see what their children are buying.
Transportation director Linda Smith said she is consolidating bus routes to increase efficiency. Cutting the number of bus stops keeps buses on the road less and saves fuel.
Smith said the department is looking at the possibility of buying a couple of propane-powered buses at some point. Propane is less expensive than diesel.
In the maintenance department, director Ken Hill and his staff have been looking for savings.
A new pilot program will have waterless urinals at Fox Chapel and Parrott middle schools. The urinals save about 250,000 gallons of water a year per school, Hill said, and that also lowers water bills.
During the summer, Challenger K-8, the last school that did not have energy-saving light controls and sensors, had them installed.
Powell Middle School and Eastside Elementary School each had 20 air-conditioning units installed. Letting in-house workers do the jobs instead of subcontractors saved the district about $40,000 to $50,000, primarily in labor costs.
During the summer, maintenance employees worked four-day weeks for six weeks, saving the district about $100,000. Classroom air temperatures have been adjusted one degree, saving $70,000.
"Where practical, we're buddying-up to save on truck and fuel usage," Hill said.
Sean Arnold, who manages the custodial department, has started a team-cleaning program to move custodians through schools together, which makes cleaning faster and more efficient.
More than $350,000 was saved by having the current custodial staff cover more space. This allowed the district to move custodians to the new Explorer K-8 without hiring new ones.
Working with finance director Deborah Bruggink and superintendent Wayne Alexander, Hill said maintenance costs have been reduced by $800,000 over the past six months.