Children with unpaid lunch accounts would still be served a hot meal in Crawfordsville schools under a proposed policy change, as the district seeks to recoup thousands of dollars in negative balances without “lunch shaming” students.

The proposal, introduced at Thursday’s school board meeting, allows students to eat from the regular menu instead of receiving an alternative lunch with nut-free SunButter sandwiches.

“It is sad, especially [for] the little kids... [cafeteria staff] take their hot lunch away and they’re given a sack,” said Nicholson Elementary principal Jennifer Coyle, who is developing the policy as part of her superintendent internship.

At the middle and high school, students with negative lunch balances would not be able to select a la carte menu items. The collections process would begin when a negative balance reaches $25. 

Unpaid lunch accounts cost the district an estimated $4,000 last school year, bringing the running total to $12,000, administrators said. The total includes outstanding accounts from former staff members. There is no cost to students for breakfast.

The proposal also spells out ways to handle leftover money from students who have withdrawn or graduated from school, and sets policies for staff members with outstanding balances. 

Unpaid school lunch account policies have come under increasing scrutiny in recent years. Some states have passed laws against “lunch shaming,” and the USDA discourages practices that stigmatize students, but lets districts set their own policies, according to the Associated Press. 

The school board will vote on the proposal at next month’s meeting.

In personnel matters, the board approved the hiring of new teachers at the high school and Hose Elementary.

Christina Jeffers was hired to teach language arts and Alexis Maschinot joins the science department. Krystal Nicholas will be a special education teacher at the high school.

Due to increased kindergarten enrollment, Erin Gilland is joining the staff at Hose as a kindergarten teacher.

The board approved the resignations of high school English teacher Christopher Kearby and high school counselor Missy Ritchie, and accepted the retirement of Tami Utterback, high school and career and technical administrative assistant. 

Sarah Newton, who served as high school registrar, is taking Ritchie’s place in the guidance department.

Other employees have changed positions for the new school year. 

Tami Haas was named the school’s dean of students and athletic director, replacing Brett Motz, who will teach PE at the high school. 

Middle school aide Alyssa Powell moves to the library as media assistant. High school media specialist Amie Cox is expanding her duties to grades K-12.

After serving as an aide, Deneen Bartlett has been named director of extra-curricular programs offered through the state’s 21st Century Community Learning Center program.

In other business:

• The district is close to seeking bids for the high school renovation project, as the design phase nears completion, assistant superintendent Dr. Rex Ryker reported.

The board’s next regular meeting is set for 6 p.m. Sept. 12 in the administration building, 1000 Fairview Ave.

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