(MONTANA CITY) The Montana City School District has adopted a new school lunch policy to discourage students from running up large balances on their lunch accounts – but without a provision that would have given them “alternative meals” when their balances got too high.
The school board unanimously approved the new policy during a meeting Wednesday night.
Under the policy, once a student’s account balance goes above $100, the school will ask parents to provide a lunch. If the student comes to school without a lunch, staff will call their parents to remind them. If the parents still aren’t able to provide lunch, the school will serve the student the standard meal, but charge an added $2 fee.
Superintendent Tony Kloker said the school will be regularly in contact with parents to let them know when their children’s account balances are too high. He also said the district will help families dealing with financial hardships to find alternatives.
“The whole purpose of this policy is to collect the fines from those that can,” Kloker said. “Those that can’t or are struggling, we’ll work with them, like we always have.”
District leaders say the costs can add up dramatically when parents do not pay. At the end of the 2015-2016 school year, Montana City School faced $13,000 in unpaid balances.
A draft version of the policy seen in February would have provided students with “alternative meals” like a cheese sandwich if their balance went above $100.
Some parents raised concerns that that proposal could lead to “lunch-shaming” – students facing embarrassment or even bullying because their classmates would know their lunch account wasn’t paid off. But several parents and students who spoke at Wednesday’s meeting said they didn’t believe school administrators would let that happen.
District leaders said the alternative meal proposal was based on a recommendation from the Montana School Boards Association. If it had been adopted, they said they intended to give the meals to students in a discreet way.
The new lunch policy will take effect in the 2017-2018 school year. Kloker said district leaders will work on how to implement it over the next two months.