BARTLESVILLE, Okla. – A school district in northeast Oklahoma may rack up $32,000 in unpaid balances for students’ lunches if something doesn’t change, a school official says.
In Bartlesville Public Schools, 52% of students get free or reduced lunches. But according to the district, their negative balance in unpaid lunches continues to rise.
“Last year we had $25,000 built up in unpaid balances, and this year, we’re on track at this point to reach about $32,000 in unpaid balances,” said Granger Meador with Bartlesville Public Schools.
According to KJRH, school officials say “they have to try to collect the money from parents whose children may actually qualify for free lunches, and even though it’s easy to do so, they just haven’t applied.”
Meador says they’re struggling with some families, whether it be applying or those who do not qualify.
“We do have a struggle with some families, getting them to apply or perhaps there are some that apply and don’t qualify and then are unable to find a way to pay for their lunch,” Meador said.
Last year, a former graduate gave the school district $10,000 to pay for unpaid lunches, however, school officials say their needs have grown and ask parents who can, to help out.
“We’ve tried a number approaches,” Meador said. “We’ve tried letters. We’ve tried voice calls. They tried some house visits to some folks.”
Robocalls and texts are now in place to help remind parents and guardians about negative balances.
The school district says they won’t turn away a child who wants to eat lunch, but if nothing is done about unpaid lunches, they will have to serve children, whose balance needs to be paid, an “alternative lunch,” which is a cold sandwich, piece of fruit and milk.