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Spotsylvania parents have paid nearly $29,000 in food service debt, but deficit remains.
By PAMELA GOULD
Parents have forked over nearly $29,000 to the Spotsylvania County school division since the School Board announced that students would start getting cheese sandwiches for lunch if meal debts went unpaid.
The policy change went into effect April 1 and was prompted by concerns that debts to student meal accounts had risen so high that the division risked dipping into its instructional funds to cover them.
That concern arose in January when the debt topped $105,000.
Previously, students in the elementary and middle schools were allowed to charge an unlimited number of breakfasts and lunches after reaching a zero balance on their accounts. High school students could charge one lunch.
The new policy limits elementary youngsters to charging five meals after they reach a zero balance. Middle school students can charge five lunches; high school students one.
Beyond those limits, students will be offered an alternative meal of milk and a sandwich, probably with cheese.
Students with debts are also denied participation in noninstructional activities such as field days and graduations.
Schools spokeswoman Rene Daniels said no student was banned from graduation this spring and she was unaware of any youngsters missing field days at the end of the school year as a result of debt.
School Board members Amanda Blalock and Linda Wieland, who serve on the division's Food Service Task Force, were encouraged by the amount of money parents have repaid.
The outstanding balance on March 31--before the policy change went into effect--was $93,276.27. As of July 17, it had dropped to $64,280.95.
"It clearly is working," Blalock said of the revised policy.
"Right now, I'm pleased with the direction it's going."
But board member Ray Lora, who proposed this spring that the division change its policy to allow no debt, disagreed.
"As long as there is a deficit, it is not working," he said.
Lora noted that many school divisions in Virginia don't allow students to charge any meals when there's no money in their accounts. He said that's the way to go.
"As long as we allow families to charge--for whatever reason--we become a collection agency," Lora said. "Administrators shouldn't be debt collectors."
He supports continuing to offer alternative meals so no child goes unfed.
Wieland said she expects the division's incoming executive director of operations to tackle the issue. She also wants to continue monitoring the situation since the revised policy was in place only for the last two months of the school year.
"I'd like to give our new policy time to work," she said.
Pamela Gould: 540/735-1972
Parents of Spotsylvania students still can get their children's accounts paid up and ready for the next school year.
To determine the amount owed, check the division's PASS system or call Food Service at 540/582-5894 and use one of the following extensions: 1965, 1966 or 1967.
Mail checks to: Food Services, Spotsylvania County Schools, 8020 River Stone Drive, Fredericksburg, Va. 22407.