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PRINEVILLE, OR -- Crook County families have racked up about $27,000 in school lunch debt, and the district says something must be done to recoup those costs. District Finance Director Anna Logan says it's not the kids' fault, and those owing money will still be provided meals. "The federal rules are clear on this that if students are not eligible for free or reduced pricing, those meal charges are the responsibility of the families and not the school district."

 

Logan tells KBND News, "We have a process in which students, if they don't have a prepaid balance on their account, we don't take the meal away from them. We try not to shame them. So, what ends up happening, over the last three or so years, is the meal charges have just continued to increase dramatically." She adds, "Any organization that serves their customers regardless of their ability to pay is going to have this situation. So, you just have to figure out ways of doing the best you can within that situation and trying to determine what's the priority and not doing anything that's extreme on either side. There's nothing simple about this." Three-quarters of the students owe less than $100. But, Logan says accounts over $200 could be sent to collections if parents don't make payment arrangements. 

 

She says the district is trying to make it easy for busy parents to take care of their child's meal account, "We also did implement an online system that makes it much easier for parents to see what's going on with their students' accounts. They can see individual meals that are charged, they can see the balances at any point, and they can even set up their own thresholds for e-mail reminders. So, if you want to know when your student's balance gets below $5, for example, you can set that at $5 and you'll get an e-mail. So, it's super easy." She's hopeful families will take care of their debt prior to the start of school in September. 

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