The Davidson County School District is facing backlash from parents and other community members after reinstating policies requiring payment for lunch and other fees, which prevents students from receiving meals or participate in extracurricular activities.
According to the Davidson County School Board handbook, high school students are not allowed to charge meals to their school account, which means they will not be able to receive meals if they have a zero balance. It also states that students are required to pay all educational costs, such as library fines, graduation fees, and other charges, to participate in extracurricular activities.
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Elementary and middle school students are allowed to charge up to $12.75 for meals before contacting the student’s parents for payment.
The Davidson County School District said in a written statement that those policies had been in effect for several years but had been suspended due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Schools have received federal funding to provide free lunches to students for the past two years during the pandemic, but that funding was not renewed this year.
“Understanding that the USDA Free Universal Meals Program provided to all students for the previous two years would no longer be in effect, beginning in July 2022, we have communicated this change to parents on multiple occasions. These communications encouraged families to apply for free/reduced meal benefits due to federal school nutrition guidelines that do not allow students to have a negative balance in their school lunch accounts,” the statement from the county schools reads. of Davidson.
District officials said schools are using the first quarter of the school year to prepare parents, students and staff for the policy’s reimplementation in the second quarter beginning Nov. 1. administrators”.
“If a student is not eligible for benefits, there must be some form of payment each day. If the student cannot afford the meal because no fees are allowed under federal guidelines, the school must have the financial means to cover the fees,” the school district’s written statement read.
Earlier reports said the school’s nutrition staff would ‘throw away’ the student’s lunch if they didn’t have the money to cover its cost, prompting a flurry of complaints on social media from parents and the community. The school district said it is correcting this directive.
“Certainly throwing away food as a way to solve this complex problem was not the right approach, and we regret that it was not given more careful consideration before being communicated to infant nutrition staff. It is not the expectation that meals will be thrown away; prior to the free universal benefits of the COVID-19 pandemic, our high schools were able to successfully implement this same policy,” said the written statement from Davidson County Schools.
Davidson County schools also have a policy that requires students to pay tuition before they can participate in extracurricular events, which can include dances, parking passes, or even graduation. .
According to the school district, there are options available for families struggling to pay student accounts, including free/discounted meal requests and “backpack programs” that send non-perishable items home. with students from food-insecure households.
The Davidson County School District said it always welcomes “angel funds” from citizens who wish to donate money to help cover student fees.
In October, Holly Green, who has children in the Davidson County School District, started a Go Fund Me page to raise money to help parents pay off outstanding debts so students can take advantage of extracurricular and extracurricular events.
“A child should never be held responsible for something that should be the responsibility of their parents. Excluding a child based on something that is completely out of their control is just not okay. I fully understand that nothing is free, and that the school only does what it has to do, but let’s leave the financial aspect where it should be, 100% the responsibility of the parents! Let the kids be kids,” Green said on the fundraising page.
She has currently raised approximately $1,500 in funds that will go to individual schools, starting with the Tyro and West Davidson area. The Go Fund Me page is here.
Davidson County Schools said they are committed to reviewing the Free Education Policy, which was passed in 2011, reinstating some of the previous policies and reviewing other recommendations.
“At Davidson County Schools, we are proud of our school nutrition service and make it a priority to feed all children… (Our) goal is to balance a free policy expectation from the USDA with the “goal to ensure that all children have the opportunity to access a healthy meal during the school day. We are always willing to work with families and students in a variety of ways to ensure our students are nourished,” the statement read. Davidson County Schools.