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Proposed Pinellas County vegan charter school won’t be all vegan

Federal food guidelines are standing in the way.

King Charter School has an ambitious aim: It wants to become the first vegan public school in the nation, if not the world.

“Yes, several plant-based schools have popped up around the globe in the last few years, but all with a hefty tuition for parents to pay,” the founders of the planned Pinellas County school write on their Go Fund Me page. “Well the board members behind KING Charter Schools are working on the first charter school application to solve this issue and to make public education plant-based.”

They’ve encountered a stumbling block, though, in their attempt to meet that marketed goal. It comes from the federal government.

“To comply with regulations, we would have to have cow’s milk available in the schools,” said school spokeswoman Maria Solanki, referring to USDA rules regarding meal reimbursements.

She stressed, though, that students would not be required to drink milk, which she called a “toxin.”

Starting a school, even just at the kindergarten through second grade levels, requires significant revenue. So King Charter can ill afford to do without the reimbursements, Solanki said.

But the group is trying to raise money to help offset the costs, while also looking forward to the next set of USDA rules due in 2020.

“Ideally, we open the doors 100% vegan,” Solanki said. “Worst case scenario, we will have milk but the kids won’t have to take it.”

The school also plans to offer tri-language immersion, and hopes to open in the fall. Its leaders have said once they have the Pinellas County site up and running, they would like to build a network of plant-based charter schools throughout the nation.