Students not in the free or reduced meals program who fall behind on paying for their lunches could end up eating an “alternate” lunch, if the Thomaston-Upson Board of Education approves a new School Lunch Fee Policy. The BOE held the first reading of the policy at their Jan. 8 meeting.
Shelley Daniels, Director of Food Services and Nutrition for the school system, presented the policy. She said the state is requiring all school systems to have a Board of Education approved charge policy for lunches. Daniels added that they solicited ideas from other school systems pertaining to their meal charge policies, then met with the school administrators in Upson County to discuss the ideas and mold the policy to fit each of the schools’ needs.
“The policy itself is that all students should pay for the meal first,” said Daniels. “They should pay for it as they come through the line, or we also provide ‘My Payments Plus’ now, where the parents can pay for the meals online, and watch online as the students go through the line, which line they go through, what they eat, and what they purchase. Parents are really liking that.”
The policy requires that meals are paid for in advance. Daniels said that at the point where a student has a zero balance in their account, they will still receive a meal, but a process will begin in which the school system makes four attempts to contact the student’s parents and receive payment for the meals.
“When charges cannot be recovered and charged lunches reach a 10-meal maximum,” said Daniels, “an alternate meal may be served to the students. An alternate meal would consist of a peanut butter and jelly sandwich or a cheese sandwich, a fruit and a milk. The reason we included that in there is that some of the administrators are having a difficult time with parents being contacted and the charges having reached a $50 or more balance. At that point, when it continues to be ignored, we will have the option to provide an alternate meal. Again, that is a recommendation from other systems that seems to work.”
In addition to the alternate meals, schools will have the options to withhold report cards and/or other non-academic privileges to students until the meals are paid for or a payment plan has been established with the parents. Daniels added that at any time during the school year, if a family’s financial situation deteriorates, they are welcome to come in and fill out a free and reduced meal application.
The board clarified some portions of the policy during the first reading. The second reading and possible approval of the new policy will be made at the Feb. 12 Board of Education meeting.