Superintendent David Dude overrules letter about lunch balances at Oakhurst Elementary School
An email went out to parents on Thursday, May 23, saying that students who have an unpaid lunchroom balance of more than $10 would get an alternative lunch — a peanut butter and jelly sandwich, plus milk — for the rest of the school year until their debt is paid.
“This can be upsetting to young children, so please discuss it with your child before tomorrow so that they are not upset about receiving the alternate lunch,” the email said.
Late Thursday evening, Superintendent David Dude said that’s not going to happen. If a child wants a full lunch, they’ll get one.
“While this is a common practice in public schools throughout the country, I do not believe it is a practice consistent with the values of the City Schools of Decatur,” Dude said. “Unpaid lunch debts are a problem between adults and should not impact children. Therefore, I informed our Director of Student Nutrition that this practice will be discontinued immediately. If a student needs lunch, he/she will get a full lunch, not a partial, unequal lunch. While this places a burden on our nutrition department because they still have to pay the bills, we will determine alternative ways to address the problem of unpaid balances. I am proud of our nutrition staff and appreciate the valuable service they provide to our students. I have no doubt we have the best food service in the state, and probably far beyond, and this direction ensures all students wishing to partake in our nutritious food will be able to do so.”
Dude didn’t have numbers for the amount of school lunch debt throughout the district, but said the problem is acute at Oakhurst.
“I know that this communication originated from Oakhurst because they had one of the largest totals of unpaid debt in the district at around $1,100,” Dude said. “Several families owe $100 or more.”