A discussion at last month’s Nevis School Board meeting about how outstanding lunch balances are handled has resulted in some changes.

“That caused us to take a look at our policy,” board chair Larry Smith said. “We realized we put out employees (in the lunchroom) in an almost impossible situation where they had to tell people they were short on money and may not be able to eat without shaming them. It was a poor policy. We learned from this, made some changes to the present policy and are trying not to have adult issues get into students lives. It was an awakening.”

Smith said board members have apologized to staff in the lunchroom who were just following school policy when giving some students who had a negative lunch balance a peanut butter sandwich.

Board member Justin Isaacson brought up the issue at last month’s meeting.

“I was just bringing forth concerns about a policy that I felt needed to be changed,” he said. “I appreciate the lunchroom staff, and I know we’re all working together to provide the best environment for our kids.”

Superintendent Gregg Parks said several lunchroom staff have put their own money into student accounts to make sure they can have lunch.

“I can tell you absolutely no one in the building wants to go up to a kid and say they can’t eat today,” he said. “As a result, we have changed some of our practices. For one, our support system will start alerting parents as soon as their lunch balance gets below $10.”

Instant alerts and letters and phone calls to parents will be used. If a student has a negative balance of $20 or greater, Parks said school social workers will make a call to see what help is needed. Options include applying for free and reduced lunch, setting up a payment schedule or connecting with a charity that can help. Isaacson said the Healing Hearts Network is willing to contribute to an emergency fund for negative lunch balances.

Becker said that many districts in the state are dealing with unpaid lunch balances. “They are looking at a state and federal programs where meals can be included in a funding formula,” he said. “I’m keeping my fingers crossed because that would be great,” he said. “I don’t see it this year or next year, but hopefully down the road.”

In other action, the board:

  • Heard from student council representatives who are concerned with the learning environment in the media center where both online students and elementary students are working at the same time. They suggested having a full-time assistant in the media center and eventually a separate room for online students so they can better focus on their work. Parks said space is a premium and he is working on staffing the media center.

  • Accepted donations totaling $5,260 with thanks for the community support. Donations of $500 or more came from the Nevis Lions ($500 for the robotics team), Walmart ($500 for Tiger Time) and Itasca Mantrap Electric Co-op Operation Round Up ($550 for the robotics team). Bethany Lutheran Church served as a donation site for winter clothing, collecting 41 coats, 13 snow pants and 22 pairs of boots for the school to distribute.

  • Approved contracts with Larry Frank for assistant girls’ basketball coach and Jennifer Geraedts for the one-act play.

  • Removed credit card authorization for former facilities manager Randy Jansen and approved a $5,000 credit card authorization for the new facilities manager Dustin Wroolie.

  • Recognized Gary Stennes for 20 years of service on the board.

  • Heard 25 units of blood were collected at the student council blood drive.

  • Heard the Healing Hearts Network is willing to share some of the district costs for bringing in speakers to help address issues of bullying and domestic violence with students.

The next meeting of the school board will be at 7 p.m. Monday, Dec. 16, beginning with the district’s Truth in Taxation Hearing.