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JPS took right action on unpaid lunch bills

The Jamestown Public School Board’s recent decision to put a limit on negative balances for school lunch accounts was the right one. The board had to take action to deal with increasing costs for unpaid lunch bills.

The school district paid $9,942 to cover families’ unpaid lunch bills at the end of the 2012-2013 school year. The change approved by the board last week is expected to reduce that amount and help ensure students get to eat lunch.

School Board members expressed their concerns for student nutrition and not wanting to punish children for their parents not paying the bill. We agree that those concerns are important, and the School Board members’ consideration of student needs is appreciated.

The board decided to place a $15 per-student limit on lunch account debt because without it, some families may continue to take advantage of the schools’ funds — and, in turn, taxpayers’ money.

Concerns about the needs of students shaped this new lunch policy. If a lunch debt exceeds the $15 per-student limit, there are five different options that parents can choose to make sure their children get to eat lunch. That should ensure that families’ varying needs will be covered.

The options are:

* paying the lunch money debt in full.

* starting a payment plan with the school’s food service.

* bringing lunch to school.

* paying cash for a school meal.

* 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.

The new procedure starts Jan. 6, giving parents plenty of time to learn about the new policy and prepare for the change.

The change also highlights the availability of the Free and Reduced Lunch program, in which government funds are available to provide lunch discounts to families with qualifying low incomes.

It’s unfortunate that the school district had to implement any such rule for unpaid lunch bills. But the School Board’s decision was the right decision for the district.

(Editorials are the opinion of Jamestown Sun management and the newspaper’s editorial board)