PUBLISHED: Aug. 12, 2017
BY: Shannon Hall, Courier & Press reporter
EVANSVILLE — The EVSC sees thousands of dollars in unpaid school lunch balances at the conclusion of every school year.
The Evansville Vanderburgh School Corporation had more than $18,000 in unpaid student lunches at the end of the 2016-2017 school year.
It’s not uncommon for students to have negative balances, and the school works with them as best as they can so no one is in dire straights, said Jason Woebkenberg, EVSC spokesman.
“We’ll work out any kind of payment plan that is necessary ,” he said. “So if you have a negative balance, and you can bring in a couple dollars tomorrow, $5 on Friday, a few dollars next week, we will set up any kind of payment plan we can because we don’t want to make life more difficult for someone who is already facing some challenges.”
Despite having thousands in unpaid meals, the community helped several schools out by donating throughout the fall and spring semesters.
“There were some donations that were made — some were pretty significant,” Woebkenberg said. “We had some people and asked how much ‘this’ school owes, and they would pay for it.”
The school corporation sees donations for unpaid meal balances occasionally, but not like they saw last year.
“I don’t know if part of it was due to social media or what,” he said. “I think people saw that and it inspired others
The EVSC doesn’t have an alternate lunch if a student doesn’t have enough money. But since there isn’t an alternate lunch the student will get the regular meal, and it will be charged to their account.
“We don’t pull a tray back or substitute for a peanut butter and jelly sandwich,” Woebkenberg said. “Obviously, we do have an expectation that lunches are paid for. … We also know it’s our job to work with families.”
If a student doe have a negative balance, they can still get lunch or breakfast, but a la carte food won’t be allowed to back charge.
If high school students don’t have the funds for breakfast or lunch, they have to get an IOU from the school office or to call their parents. Younger students will be told they’re going into the negative when they check out during lunch or breakfast.
“High school students are older, and they’re not adults, but we know we can count on them … to teach responsibility and things like that,” Woebkenberg said.
Families will receive an automated call every two weeks if a meal balance is negative $10. If the unpaid balance exceeds $20, the school sends out two notices via snail mail.
“We really try to stay on top of it and let the students know of their balances,” Woebkenberg said.
Once the balance reaches negative $50 with no attempt to make payments by the family, the EVSC will turn the negative balance to an outside collection agency.
“Even that is flexible,” Woebkenberg said. “We’re not going say — no, once you hit $50, we’re automatically (sending it to the collection agency). We do everything in our power to not send it to collections.”
He said sometimes having a collection agency intervene is necessary if families don’t respond to requests to pay the unpaid balances.
“We have to be good stewards of the taxpayers’ money,” Woebkenberg said.
Families can apply to see if they qualify for free or reduce lunch, but if students eat meals during the waiting period, those charges will go toward the student’s account.
Anyone can apply to see if their students qualify for free or reduced lunches, but it’s not a guarantee.
EVSC meal prices
Grades K-5: $1.35
Grades 6-8: $1.35
Grades 9-12: $1.50
Grades K-5: $0.30
Grades 6-8: $0.30
Grades 9-12: $0.30
Grades K-5: $2.00
Grades 6-8: $2.15
Grades 9-12: $2.35
Grades K-5: $0.40
Grades 6-8: $0.40
Grades 9-12: $0.40
Grades K-5: $3.00
Grades 6-8: $3.00
Grades 9-12: $3.00
School Unpaid Balances from 2016-2017*
North JH $686.07
West Terrace $545.96
AIS First $476.62
Helfrich Park $474.33
Plaza Park $460.25
Oak HIll $425.48
Cynthia Heights $371.54
Perry Heights $330.95
Daniel Wertz $291.35
New Tech $246.20
Cedar Hall $187.05
AIS Diamond $152.55
*Some schools balances transferred if students transfer schools within the EVSC whether it’s in the middle of the year or if they move from middle school to high school.
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