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School District to Discontinue Partial Meal Policy

By Susan Reines
Staff Writer

November 10 -- The School Board last week expressed unanimous support for overturning a district policy that gives students "partial lunch" -- fruit, vegetable and milk -- if their parents fail to pay their lunch bills.

The policy had been largely dormant until last month, when the chief financial officer and food services director decided to enforce it because parents at McKinley Elementary had racked up a total bill of $350 in the first month of the school year.

In response to parent complaints, the board put a moratorium on the policy soon after its enforcement began.

Several parents spoke against the policy last Thursday, saying students should not be punished for financial matters out of their control. Some said they had not received adequate noticing that their bills were overdue, though district officials said all notices had gone out on time.

While all of the board members supported ending the policy, they directed staff to study the notices parents received and explore ways to collect meal bills without serving partial lunches.

"These are families that are not on free and reduced lunch," Board Member Emily Bloomfield said. "I think it is important to stress that families are ultimately responsible for paying for their children's lunch."

The policy, which was agendized as a discussion item, will return for final action at a future meeting.
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