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School Board approves procedure for unpaid lunch bills

Robert Lech

The Jamestown Public School Board approved Monday a limit on negative balances in student lunch accounts.

The new procedure, which will start Jan. 6, enforces a limit of $15 negative dollars, or about one week’s worth of meals, per student in a family’s lunch account.

The School Board started discussing this subject in June, after approving use of the district’s general fund to pay for $9,942 in families’ outstanding lunch bills.

“That’s an awful lot of money, and that to me says that we don’t have a very good process in place to make sure that this doesn’t happen. That’s a lot of dollars that can be spent in other ways,” Superintendent Robert Lech said.

As of Monday, this school year’s outstanding lunch bills totaled $4,840.27, Lech said.

Ninety-six students, or about 4.5 percent, have negative lunch balances above the $15 limit that will start Jan. 6. Those amounts range from $15.15 to $445.50, Lech said.

Only 29 of the negative balances are more than $50, and nine are more than $100, he said.

The new plan, which was unanimously approved by the School Board, will not allow students to charge to their account past the $15 limit. Once that limit is reached, parents have the options of:

* paying the lunch money debt in full.

* starting a payment plan with the school’s food service. Several board members voiced the importance of allowing students to eat if their parents are attempting to pay the debt.

* bringing lunch to school.

* paying cash for a school meal. A regular school lunch is $2.25 at the elementary schools, $2.35 at the middle school and $2.45 at the high school.

* having a full meal price added to the family’s account, past $15, but having the student eat an alternate meal, which would be a cheese sandwich, apple or banana and milk.

Lech clarified to the board that the $15 limit was per student, not per family, and students will not be denied super-sizing or buying additional lunch items before the $15 limit is reached.

“Before, I had some concerns about serving a different meal to students,” said board member Heidi Larson, “but I don’t have a better alternative to that.”

Board member Greg Allen reiterated a point from previous board meetings, saying that Free and Reduced Lunch registration should be offered to families falling behind on lunch bills.

Lech said that Food Service Director Shelley Mack works to inform all families of that program.

“It all seems very fair, very logical,” board member Diane Hanson said of the new procedure.

Compared to other school districts researched, Jamestown’s previous plan of no lunch account limit was “very lenient,” Hanson said.

Also at Monday’ meeting, the School Board:

* discussed some members’ attendance of the state School Board Convention, where the Jamestown Public School Board presented on the process of working toward board unity.

* recognized Allen for being elected as president of the State School Board Association.

* heard an update on the Two Rivers Activity Center. It was clarified to the board that the school district has not yet made any formal commitments regarding land for TRAC. Many board members voiced their excitement about TRAC, and their desire to continue discussions of the school district’s involvement.

* heard from Lech that literacy, assessment and teacher evaluation task forces are underway.

* approved hiring Lance Brower as farm business management teacher at the James Valley Career and Technology Center for the remainder of the 2013-2014 school year.

* approved an extended school year contract for Delynn Mittleider for one additional class.

Sun reporter Charly Haley can be reached at 701-952-8455 or by email at

Charly Haley
Charly Haley covers city government for the Grand Forks Herald. As night reporter, she also has many general assignments. Before working at the Herald, she was a reporter at the Jamestown Sun and interned at The Forum of Fargo-Moorhead, Detroit Lakes Newspapers and the St. Cloud Times. Haley is a graduate of Minnesota State University Moorhead, and her hometown is Sartell, Minn.
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