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USD 428 looks at alternative student meals for accounts in arrears

Editor’s note: This is the second of two stories about policy changes being considered by the Great Bend USD 428 Board of Education for 2017.

Students who are in arrears on their school lunches at Great Bend USD 428 won’t go hungry, but they won’t receive the same meal as paying students.
Parents will be asked to pack a lunch for those students, but if they don’t have a meal the district may provide peanut butter, crackers and milk as an alternative under a proposed revision to district policy.
Interim Superintendent Khris Thexton explained suggested policy changes at the Dec. 8 school board meeting. The board is expected vote on them at the Jan. 9 meeting.
Revisions that keep school districts current with changes in state and federal law were suggested by the Kansas Association of School Boards in December.
New federal policies require school districts to adopt more specific policies on unpaid meal charges before July 1, 2017, but there is room for customizing, Thexton noted.
Districts are not required by law to allow students to charge any meals, but those that do must set a dollar amount or a maximum number of meals at which point no further charges will be accepted.
Likewise, districts are not required to provide students with an alternative food source if they have no money to pay for meals. (The policy does not apply for students who are eligible for free meals.)
But, if they do provide an alternative meal, districts have to give some detail as to what it would be.
As the law is currently written, the costs for covering a sandwich and milk would have to be wholly absorbed by the district, but offering whole grain crackers at a reduced price would allow the district to still get some reimbursement from federal funding, Thexton said.
Similarly, the district is obligated to include some language about how parents will be notified that their child has run out of money for meals, and what processes the district will go through to attempt to get parents to pay for meals charged once they run out.
The proposed policy sets a limit on how far behind the account can go. The limit for reduced price meals is -$2.80 for grades K-12. For full paid meals, it ranges from -$9.25 for grades K-6, to -$8.60 for grades 7-8 and -$8.80 for grades 9-12. After the grade period amount has been reached, the school principal will ask the parent/guardian to send sack lunches with the student until the delinquent account is paid. Those who have charged the maximum allowance and cannot pay out of pocket for a meal will be provided an alternate meal consisting of peanut butter, crackers and milk.
Great Bend does allow the establishment of charge accounts for students who pay full price or a reduced price for meals, but charging of a la carte or extra items to this account will not be permitted.
Payments may be made at the school or district office or online at

Collection and overdrafts
All persons who owe overdue fees or have negative account balances with the district shall be notified of the delinquency via a mailed letter and notices sent home with the students. A second notice will be mailed after 10 days. After 10 more days, if a third and final notice is mailed, postage and stationary costs may be added to the bill.
Eventually, the district may seek enforcement of collection through small claims court or turn the matter over to legal counsel to commence debt collection proceedings.
The district does not charge a fee for returned checks if restitution is made within five working days of notification being mailed, but after that the fee is $10 for the first returned check, $15 for the second returned check, and $30 for a third returned check. After that, payments to the district must be in the form of cash, cashier’s check or credit/debit card.