GREENSBORO — High school students who come to school without money for lunch would be able to charge their meals under a proposed change to Guilford County Schools policy.
The Guilford County Board of Education’s policy committee and Superintendent Sharon Contreras are recommending the changes.
Right now, the district’s student meals charge policy states that no elementary or middle school students will be deprived of a meal because they did not have money to cover it. The proposed change would add high school students as well.
Students will not be able to charge a la carte items and adults would continue to not be able to charge meals.
In an interview earlier this school year, Schools Chief Financial Officer Angie Henry said the system allows elementary and middle school students to charge up to five lunches and five breakfasts even if they don’t have the money to pay for them. After that, if they can’t pay, Henry said, the cafeterias start giving them a pared down, cheaper version of the daily meal.
Under the current policy, high school students can’t charge meals, so they go without if they don’t have the money. However, some schools have “Angel Funds” where community members donated money to help cover the cost of meals in those cases.
Both the current and proposed versions of the policy stress the benefits of meals for students.
“It is the Guilford County Schools belief that students learn better when they are well fed,” the policy states. “Hunger can lead to nervousness, irritability, disinterest in the learning situation and a shortened attention span.”
Many students qualify for federally-funded free meals based on family need, or they go to a school in a high-poverty area where free lunch is offered for everyone. Those students don’t have to worry about having money for lunch.
A series of anonymous donors covered more than $46,500 in unpaid meal charges for Guilford County Schools students, wiping out the student lunch debt lingering from the 2018-19 school year.
If the donors had not stepped in, the district would have had to cover the meal debt. Anything not collected by Sept. 30 would have had to come out of the district’s general fund.
Policy changes are approved or rejected by vote of the Guilford County Board of Education.
The board is expected to hold a preliminary vote on Tuesday. If the board agrees to what’s called a “first reading,” the district will hold a 30-day public comment period to solicit public opinion on the proposed changes. Following that, the board would vote again to finally approve or reject the changes.