Mineral County School District (MCSD) will be implementing an online payment for fees assessed by student within the district.

Crystal Collins, employee for the MCSD, spoke in regards to implementing a new payment program for parents to use instead of sending cash or checks with their child.

Having been approached by many parents, Collins went to work on trying to find a solution where lunches can be paid in advance but also items such as shop fees, books and class fees could also be paid.

E-Funds for schools will compatible with the school software and can be placed on social media and web sites.

The site can ease the worry of parents on lost or misused monies; parents can make reoccurring payments and pay for more than one child at a time. Parents can pull reports on how many times their child eats lunch at the schools or where the payments are being applied.

Parents will find that school meals will be increased.

MCSD superintendent Walt Hackford discussed increasing the cost of school meals due to the large number of accounts in arrears.

Each student meal (breakfast and lunch) will be increased by 25 cents. Adult meals will also be increased.

“As much as we want to keep the cost down for our kids and for our staff we can not keep the cost of commodities down. They continue to rise and we have to face the reality that the prices are going up,” Hackford informed the board.

“We can not run this program in the red,” Board Trustee Donna Glazier said.

Board Trustee Sheri Samson asked if the district was going into the red because of the rising cost of commodities or because people are not paying.

Mark Nixon, Board Trustee, referred to the backup provided by the district staff showing that currently the district is paying $3.90 for breakfast and lunch but only charging $1.90 to those children in Schurz.

Patricia Stoddard, budget director, at the district explained that for the past two years, the district has implemented a resolution to increase the meals by 25 cents.

“We hate to hit the kids with a huge price increase, but I’m not sure that 25 cents is a large enough increase to make a difference. We have a lot of outstanding accounts from parents not paying,” Hackford told the board.

The board was informed that at Schurz Elementary, 100 percent of the children participate in the breakfast meal, whereas in Hawthorne, roughly 40 to 50 kids eat breakfast, daily.

It was explained to the board that Schurz Elementary does ‘breakfast after the bell’. This process is allowing the children to play up until the bell rings; the children are taken to their homerooms for attendance then to the cafeteria for breakfast. This was due to the poverty level percentage being over 70 percent for that school. Hawthorne schools did not have a high enough percentage to participate in that program.

The higher cost of the meals could benefit Hawthorne students as with the increase more children may be able to qualify for free or reduced meals.

Collins explained to the board that currently there is 61 parents who have been turned over to an outside collection agency due because of outstanding balance for meals. Out of the 61 parents that were turned over, only three have contacted the school and paid off their balances.

“We have some students beginning this year with a $1,000 lunch balance,” Collins told the board. “That is not an exaggeration. These parents are refusing to pay and they have enough money to pay.”

Excuses given were that the money had been sent to the school but is not being reported or some simple are refusing to pay the debt owed.

The balances cover 139 students, two with balances over $1,000; six with balances over $500 and many with balances in the $300 to $100 range.

“Do you have to by law still allow them [parents] to create more debt,” Samson asked. “Can’t you cut them off at some point?”

It was decided that the cost of lunches would be raised 40 cents per meal.

In discussing the outstanding balances, Hackford told the board that those students whose accounts are in arrears would still be provided a meal. Instead of the featured meal of the day, those students will be fed an alternative lunch consisting of items such as: (example) peanut butter and jelly sandwich with milk and raw vegetables. One that is of less expense to the district.

“As a means of trying to influence parents to pay up their debt, when their child gets a basic meal, when they have gone to collections,” Hackford said.

Samson and Lancaster both expressed their concerns of harassment and bullying due to children being singled out for their parent’s lack of payment.

Collins said that in the Student Code of Conduct that children cannot charge past three days. She will be calling parents to let them know they are past due and will explain to children why they have to eat an alternative meal. Parents will also be charged for the minimal lunch on top of their outstanding balance.

“I am scared we are going to collect more debt rather than money,” Board Trustee Barbara Lancaster said.