Monday, June 17, 2024

Rumor control: NHCS students can participate in field day despite overdue lunch tab

Earlier this week, the school sent a message to Noble families that stated if they had a balance of $60 or more, their child would not be able to participate in field day. (Port City Daily/file photo)

NEW HANOVER COUNTY — All students at Noble Middle School in New Hanover County will be able to participate in field day, regardless of unpaid meal charges.

Earlier this week, the school sent a message to Noble families that stated if they had a balance of $60 or more, their child would not be able to partake in the activities. 

However, New Hanover County Schools reversed that decision, allowing all students to participate regardless of debt status.

“After taking a closer look at the situation, the district made the decision to change the school’s initial plan,” spokesperson Russell Clark said.

That decision prompted Noble principal Anita Brown to send the following message to parents:

“Good Morning Noble Families, 

I understand there are questions and concerns surrounding your child’s school lunch balance and its impact on eligibility to participate in field day. 

All students, regardless of their lunch balance, will be able to participate in field day. 

It is, however, important that you take care of your child’s outstanding lunch balance before the end of the school year. If you are having trouble covering the cost of your child’s lunch, we encourage you to apply for the free and reduced lunch program. The link can be found here:

Thank you for understanding!”

A parent’s post on social media Friday claimed the principal also announced to the school that Noble had a $4,000 balance.

A document shared with Port City Daily lists the middle school is $4,517 in debt from unpaid meal charges. Noble’s cafeteria prices are $1.35 for breakfast and $2.25 for lunch, but costs nothing or $0.40 for free- and reduced-lunch qualifiers.

However, Noble’s balance is not the highest middle school tab — both Myrtle Grove and Roland Grise middle schools has over $10,000 in debt. The highest elementary school tab is Coddington Elementary with $1,834 and the highest high school amount is $27,781 at Ashley.

District policy indicates the director of child nutrition and principal “shall work jointly to prevent meal charges from accumulating.” 

If a student is without meal money on a consistent basis, the principal, social worker, or data manager shall assist the director of child nutrition or designee in investigating the situation. This could include contacting the parent or guardian or encouraging them to seek additional assistance, such as submitting a free and reduced lunch application.

Notices of low or negative balances in a student’s meal account will be sent to parents and the principal at regular intervals during the school year. 

After 30 days, unpaid amounts are turned over to a collection agency if they are deemed “uncollectable.” According to policy, the collection agency, selected and approved by the superintendent or designee, will work with the student’s family to collect the amount owed to the school system. 

Federal child nutrition funds are not used to offset the cost of unpaid meals.

The policy does not address whether students will be barred from school events or activities if they have unpaid fees. PCD asked Clark to clarify if that can happen; he did not answer the question.

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