Ardmore City Schools students will now be able to enjoy the most important meal of the day for free.

The board of education approved a universal breakfast plan during its regular meeting Tuesday.

Director of Child Nutrition Jennifer Roach presented the pilot program, which will enable all students, regardless of qualification status for free or reduced meals, to receive a free breakfast before school.

While 84 percent of students are qualified for free or reduced meals, many don't eat breakfast. Only 40 percent of students qualifying for free meals eat breakfast, and 27 percent of those qualifying for reduced price meals eat breakfast.

By removing the cost and making the meal equally available to everyone, Roach hopes more students will eat breakfast.

"There is a stigma that if students participate in breakfast, they are free or reduced," Roach said. "The biggest thing with universal breakfast is that it removes the stigma. We'll see an increase in students eating breakfast."

Roach listed benefits to eating breakfast, including improving memory, boosting energy and creativity, better test performance, and maintaining a good mood throughout the school day.

"So many parents have long commutes or odd work hours that make it hard to sit down and have a good breakfast," Roach said.

Overall, more than twice as many students eat lunch than eat breakfast at school. According to Roach, an increase in students served would result in the same staff as a lunch shift being used for a breakfast shift.

As for costs, the program should break even. The federal government reimburses the district for each meal served based on whether the meal is free, reduced or paid. The district would still be reimbursed for breakfast meals based on how the student qualifies for free, reduced or paid lunch.

However, the increase in number of meals served would counter the increase in food costs. If every student eats breakfast, the reimbursement would increase by about $370,208.85 to cover the increase in food costs.

In other business, the board voted to submit a deregulation application to the State Department of Education. The application is for a high school teacher who taught during a planning period during the 2012-13 school year.

"Teachers have to have a planning period," said Assistant Superintendent Missy Storm. "There are many reasons a teacher might teach during that time, but we have to submit this to the state to approve."

The board also approved a change from the accrual basis of accounting currently used to a regulatory basis.

"The State Department of Education struggles with schools on an accrual basis, and most districts our size are not on an accrual basis," said Director of Finance Kelly Shannon.