After students and parents in Cherry Hill last month slammed a plan to take away meals for students with outstanding lunch debt, district officials are changing tactics.
No longer will students with lunch money debt be relegated to eating only tuna fish sandwiches, according to a proposal introduced Tuesday night, but they could be left off class trips or school dances.
Under the scrapped policy that drew anger from the community, students with an outstanding debt of $10 or more were forced to eat a tuna sandwich for lunch.
However, if the new proposal is approved at an October school board meeting, students would have to fall at least $75 in lunch debt before they face any effects from the district. That effect would include being barred from extracurricular activities.
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Students who are $25 in debt — up to $75 — would have their parents called into the principal's office to discuss the money owed and if there is any financial support needed, according to the proposal.
As the uproar over the initial proposal gained attention in August, the district contended that it has been challenged by unpaid lunch debts over the last few years. In 2017, it forgave about $25,000 in lunch debt, but despite that, it now once again finds itself about $14,000 in the hole, Superintendent Joseph Meloche said at the time.
"Wiping out the debt - paying the money that that family owes - does not help those children because we've been feeding the kids and we will continue to feed the kids," Meloche said at the board's August meeting.
Nearly 20% of students in the Cherry Hill Public School District are considered "economically disadvantaged," NBC News reported. However, board of education member Ruth Schultz said that while some families can't afford to pay their debts, others simply refuse to.