July 18, 2017

The past two summers Carroll schools have offered low-cost summer breakfasts and meals for kids to ensure no one goes hungry. During the school year, the Carroll schools work to do the same during lunch, but a new policy reminds parents that inexpensive does not mean free.

At Monday night’s Carroll School Board meeting, many topics such as the ever-present issue of social media and texting came up, but what to do with that policy remains undecided. One sure policy change is the new Negative Meal Change Policy. Carroll Community Schools will now require payment for all meals when students exceed their lunch account balance. In the past, the schools would allow students $40 to spend on their lunch, then they were allowed three more penalty-free lunches after their $40 was spent. The new policy is being put into place to stop the schools from providing extra lunches for kids that do not pay. Superintendent, Rob Cordes, explained that in other districts, alternative sack-lunch meals were offered to kids who could not afford to pay, but they quickly coined the name “shame” meals and the sack’s were tossed.

In the Carroll community, certain organizations will help the schools out if students are unable to pay for their meals. Still, the issue is, what can the schools do to prevent students from going home hungry?

“The controversy with this policy is poor Johnny’s is going to home hungry. Johnny’s not going to home hungry. Not in this school district, that’s not going to happen,” Cordes said.

The district offers the free and reduced-price-lunch program for students who need a little extra support. The food-services program will work with families to make sure their kids are registered for the program. If families cannot qualify for this program, they may qualify for the 40-cent meal program.

The problem is being caused by those who qualify for neither meal plan, but choose not to pay what they owe. Right now, the Carroll Community School District is at a $400 in debt. Gary Bengtson, the district’s business director, said Carroll is the envy of many Iowa school districts. At one time, Ames surpassed $100,000 in negative claims. To deal with it, that district implemented a similar policy and has significantly decreased its debts.

Bengtson said, “If people know they’re not responsible for their debts, then all of a sudden nobody’s paying.”

The Negative Meal Change Policy will be put into place as a reminder, but Cordes told the board he will do everything in his power to make sure every student is fed.

In the technology discussion, Board President Jen Munson explained what teachers and coaches are doing to keep the barrier between private and professional in place. Munson told the board that her daughter’s teacher uses an app to remind parents what exams students should be studying for and found it efficient. She also spoke with a coach who uses an app to send messages to students for practice updates and any additional information, rather than sending them group or personal texts.

As of now, the Staff Technology and Social Networking Policy does not include anything about texting between staff members and students. Work will continue toward developing a policy.