LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) -- Five more JCPS schools will join the majority of others across the district in offering free meals to all of its students – regardless of their income – during the 2017-18 year, while lunch prices will rise again for those students who don't qualify for the free meals.

Students at Brandeis, Hite, Schaffner, and Tully elementary schools and Ballard High School be eligible to receive free breakfast and lunch thanks to the federal Community Eligibility Program that enables high-poverty districts across the country to offer the meals to all students at schools with enough kids that are certified as qualifying for free lunch.

Meanwhile, students at 13 schools that are still ineligible to serve free meals to all students are expected to see an increase in the price of their lunches in the 2016-17 school year, according to a proposal expected to be approved by the school board on Tuesday.

The cost of elementary school lunches will increase from $2.70 to $2.80, while middle and high school lunches would rise 5 cents from $2.85 to $2.90. Breakfast prices would remain the same: $1.75 at the elementary level and $1.85 at the high school level.

District officials say the increase is due to a mandate that requires the district to raise meal prices until it reaches the amount that it is reimbursed by the federal government.

According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, the aim of the Community Eligibility Program is to provide an alternative to household eligibility applications for free and reduced-price meals in high-poverty districts.

The provision allows districts to use information from other programs such as the Temporary Assistance Program for Needy Families (TANF) and the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) to identify families in need. If more than 40 percent of students in a school automatically qualify for free meals, the entire school can be part of the Community Eligibility program and all students can get free lunches.

The 13 schools in JCPS that are still ineligible to serve free meals to all students and may see an increase in meals include Audubon, Dunn, Greathouse/Shryock, Lowe, Norton, Norton Commons, Stopher and elementary schools; Barret and Jefferson County Traditional middle schools; Eastern, Louisville Male and duPont Manual high schools and the Brown School.

The district has been working to expand the number of schools on its list. Last year, 3,000 students at Atherton High and Crosby Middle were added. The previous year, 26,500 students at 32 schools were added.

In addition to raising lunch costs, the board is also being asked to update a district policy that would allow students to charge their meals if they don't have the money to pay for it at the register.

Under the proposed policy:

No student will be denied a reimbursable school breakfast or lunch at the point-of-sale. Students who reach the POS without funds to purchase a reimbursable meal will be allowed to charge the meal.  Students may never charge a la carte items. Adult charges are never allowed. School and Community Nutrition Services staff are not allowed to take a tray from a student and must charge students for reimbursable meals at the POS.

The district said students will be encouraged to pay in advance for meal purchases at the point-of-sale or online at www.myschoolbucks.com. In addition, students will be reminded verbally as needed when their account is getting low. When a student incurs meal charges parents/guardians will be notified via the district’s automated call system regarding the amount owed.

Charge letters will be mailed to households from central office once the account reaches negative $10.00. Principals will receive a report weekly via e-mail that provides the name and amount owed by students in their building. School administration will assist in determining if there are extenuating circumstances and assist as needed. No student will be denied food or beverage.

At the end of each school year either the school or the JCPS central office will reimburse its school and nutrition department for charges that were not collected. JCPS may pursue additional collection efforts.

The school board will meet Tuesday at the Van Hoose Education Center, 3332 Newburg Road, for a 4 p.m. work session on its tentative, $1.4 billion budget for the 2017-18 year, a 5 p.m. work session on its strategic plan and its regular meeting at 7 p.m.

Reporter Antoinette Konz can be reached at 502-585-0838 or @tkonz on Twitter.

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