Looking solely at the numbers, it appeared that the number of schoolchildren in Bristol who receive free or reduced price lunches had gone up by 1.5 percent just since Oct. 1.
That would be "pretty frightening" and "staggering," said Tom O'Brien, a school board member who has a better grip on statistics than most politicians.
Nearly every school saw the same trend, with only Edgewood nudging down slightly.
But it turns out, officials said, that the rise may show nothing more than some kids are kind of slow about returning the necessary paperwork. If they brought it in after Oct. 1, then they show up as newly poor, when all they really are is less than speedy when it comes to getting forms filled out and returned.
In any case, nearly one third of Bristol's students are eligible for cheap or free lunches now, a big rise over what it was a decade ago. And even more alarming is that the percentages are highest in the lowest grades, which likely means that the numbers are going to go up for a long time to come.
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