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Schools

Board: Soften lunch policy

By BARBARA BEHRENDT
Published February 14, 2007


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INVERNESS - The specter of the dreaded peanut butter and jelly sandwich is prompting the School Board to soften its policy on how school cafeterias handle children whose lunch accounts are empty.

Several years ago, the district received national attention when groups of children who could not pay for their lunches and whose parents had not yet filed paperwork showing they were eligible for free lunches had full trays of food pulled away.

In the place of that hot meal they were given a peanut butter and jelly sandwich.

The School Board wrote a policy allowing the youngest students through the fifth grade to charge up to three lunches. But lately, board members have been hearing stories that children are again being told that they cannot get their meal.

School district employees have told the children that it was board policy to deny credit after that third instance.

Board member Pat Deutschman took issue with that. She said the policy was written to provide a kinder and gentler approach to handling children who were without the money they needed for lunch.

That was especially a concern since the School Board learned Tuesday that its food service fund has a $2-million reserve, nearly half a million more than the program should have.

Sam Hurst, finance director, explained that the school district employees are following policy when they refuse credit after the third incident. "It's pretty clear how to enforce that policy," he said during the board's meeting Tuesday.

Board member Lou Miele said, "These are our students. We're embarrassing them. We're throwing food in the garbage. ... I want this to change."

Board member Ginger Bryant agreed. "Fix this. That's all I care about."

"I'd like us to tell schools that credit can be extended at the discretion of the school," Deutschman said. "I hate to see we have such rigid rules like this."

Miele suggested that one change could be to allow five credits and call parents after three.

Superintendent Sandra "Sam" Himmel said that she has referred the policy to the district's committee that reviews and rewrites policies. Recommendations will be brought to the board after that committee discussion.

In the interim, Hurst and Himmel said that schools will be told to soften their approach with students whose accounts have run out.

Barbara Behrendt can be reached at 564-3621 or behrendt@sptimes.com.

[Last modified February 14, 2007, 06:28:38]


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