Salem schools set up lunch charge policy

SALEM – Salem school students won’t go away hungry, but a new policy for charging lunches won’t let them rack up debt, either.

The Salem Board of Education approved the new guidelines Monday night, setting a maximum charge total of $10 for students in the three elementary schools and a written policy for what happens when a student has an unpaid balance.

Superintendent Tom Bratten stressed that no child will be turned away, but the district needed to do something about the charges getting out of control. So far this year, the charges total more than $1,000 in one building and close to that amount in the other two buildings.

The policy doesn’t affect those on free and reduced lunch or students at the junior high or high school since they have a policy of no charges.

“We’re not trying to get money out of people who can’t afford it. What we’re trying to do is prevent any abuse and keep our lunch prices down,” he said.

According to Bratten, it was getting to the point where the Nutrition Group, which oversees the district’s food service operation, would have to look at raising the lunch prices because the lunch program was losing money. Lunch costs $2.35 and includes milk.

He noted that if a family should be on free & reduced lunch and they aren’t, the parents need to contact the school. He said they’ll work with families.

The district had an unwritten policy previously for charging lunches, but had nothing on paper and a lot of inconsistencies.

The new policy takes effect Nov. 25. Parents can expect to receive a letter outlining the policy this week so they’re aware of what’s expected. Students end up charging sometimes because a family may forget to send the money in or a student forgets to give the money to the teacher or loses the money.

The policy says that in the event of unpaid charges, the following steps will be taken: a verbal reminder to the student; a written reminder sent home with the student; automated telephone call home; letter sent home; meeting between the school principal and the parent/guardian.

After a charge reaches a negative of $10, a student will receive an alternative lunch (lunch meat or peanut butter sandwich, fruit, vegetable, milk) and his or her account will be charged an additional $1 to cover the price of that meal.

A student who has cash but owes money can only buy a regular breakfast and/or lunch for that day. No charging will be permitted for ala carte items.

At the high school and junior high, no charging is permitted, but students who forget their lunch money will receive an alternative meal, with their account charged $1 for that meal. The privilege will be revoked if it appears it’s being abused.

In other business, the board approved a contract with VASCO of Canton for emergency repairs of the track at Reilly Stadium for lanes four and five for $33,000. The track had been resealed this year, but some water became trapped underneath, causing the track to bubble up on hot days. Bratten said the work needs done now to have the track ready for spring track, with the work schedule dependent on the weather.

The board also:

– re-appointed Jackie Berthold to a seven-year term on the Salem Public Library Board of Trustees, without compensation, beginning Jan. 1 and continuing through Dec. 31, 2020.

– hired Margaret Hare for 2.5 hour high school cafeteria position.

– accepted $300 donation to the Salem Academic Challenge Team from Bob Sebo and a bell kit for the Southeast band from Geoff and Kim Goll.

– approved John Beilhart, Wendy McBride and Connie Sassanella as substitute teachers and Suzanne Vollmar as a classified substitute.

– approved full-time status for Pam Wallack at the Hannah E. Mullins School of Practical Nursing at the hourly rate of $20.50.

– recognized the minimum wage increase to $7.95 effective Jan. 1.

– approved winter game positions for ticket sellers, scoreboard, stat board, announcer, usher and music/sound system.

– approved Megan Gustaevel as athletic trainer for home events for winter sports.

– approved high school chess club with Jeff Gill as unpaid advisor.

During the reports of principals, Southeast teacher Mary Beth Shivers was recognized for earning re-certification for National Board Certification.