In an attempt to bridge the gap between compassion and accountability, the Floyd County Board of Education discussed options at a Saturday morning work session to address the school lunch debt.
According to Donna Carver who oversees school nutrition for the school system, the lunch debt county-wide has hovered between $32,000 and $31,000. If the debt isn’t paid, Superintendent Jeff Wilson said the county will have to pay the U.S. Department of Education out of its general fund.
There are currently not many consequences for parents who choose not to pay for lunches. School officials are hesitant to offer an alternative lunch like vegetable plates or cheese sandwiches, but it’s not completely off the table.
“I have no patience for parents who can pay but won’t pay,” said board chair Tony Daniel. “I have a lot of compassion for those who can’t.” He continued to say that he refuses to pay for those parents who can pay.
At one point, FCS had a free lunch system, but Wilson said it was costing the county system too much money. The system reinstated lunch charges in January 2019, according to the FCS website.
School officials discussed options for communicating benefits of free and reduced lunch to parents, especially since there are a number of parents who may not know they qualify. According to Donna Carver, students who get free and reduced lunch are able to get the Pell grant and a discounted SAT and ACT registration prices. Parents can possibly pay a smaller number for their cable bill if they are able to prove they qualify for free and reduced lunch.
Wilson, along with other board members, agreed that certain benefits of free and reduced lunch need to be better communicated to the community.
“Our free and reduced lunch numbers aren’t where they should be,” Wilson said. He believes that people may not know they qualify for free and reduced lunch and encourage parents to fill out the form on the school system’s website.
The system also discussed numbers regarding the education local option sales tax project at Armuchee High School. The project, which school board officials originally estimated would cost $25 million, is now estimated to cost well over $30 million. There will be a community meeting to discuss concerns in detail on Thursday, Feb. 6, at Armuchee High.