Southwest Virginia school district prepared to take parents to court over unpaid meals

Carroll County schools have provided repeated warnings to those affected

Flickr - School lunch
Flickr - School lunch

CARROLL COUNTY, Va. – Unpaid meals are a serious problem at one school district in Southwest Virginia.

Carroll County Public Schools has a meal debt of more than $22,000 and the district is prepared to take legal action against 53 families to fix that, according to Superintendent Dr. Mark Burnette.

On Friday, a notice went out on the district’s Facebook page that parents and guardians have until March 3, 2020 to pay off their balances before a warrant in debt is filed against them.

It is the goal of the School Nutrition Program to make nutritious meals accessible to all students to help support their...

Posted by Carroll County VA Public Schools on Friday, February 21, 2020

Burnette told 10 News that Friday’s post is far from the first warning given to those with delinquent accounts, describing it as "one last attempt for us to work with parents to set up a payment plan to avoid legal action.”

He explained that there have been repeated calls, emails, texts, as well as letters that have been sent home for several months. In addition to that, 30 days ago, certified letters were sent to the 53 families whose negative balances exceed $100.

That $100 threshold comes from the district’s charge policy, which states:

Once a debt reaches $100 for a family, central office staff and school administration will investigate legal actions (i.e. collection agency, civil suit, social services, etc.) for payment of debt owed to the School Nutrition Program.Carroll County Public Schools Charge Policy

The highest negative balance in the district is $800, with 11 balances exceeding $500.

For those wondering, Burnette stated that even if their accounts are negative, “students will continue to be fed the same meal as every other student and they always have been.”

When decided to take this course of action, Burnette said he feels that with the balance so high, the school district must be good stewards of the county money and that “we can’t continue to ask county taxpayers to fund a small group of parents unpaid bills.”

Burnette also provided 10 News with this statement:

We work diligently to feed all students throughout the year. We also do outreach in the summer delivering free meals to low income apartment complexes and partnering with local public library to provide free meals. Our high school is open all summer long to provide free lunches for anyone under 18 years of age.Interim Superintendent Dr. Mark Burnette

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