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Pay up or prepare for court: Carroll County schools taking families to court over unpaid lunch accounts

Unpaid accounts totaled over $27,000 as of Tuesday

CARROLL COUNTY, Va. – On Tuesday, some local parents received an ultimatum: Pay up or prepare to go to court.

“The legal action to collect the debt was made on Feb. 3, the certified letter was sent out on Feb. 3. I think they have 30 days from that date," Carroll County interim superintendent Dr. Mark Burnette said.

Burnette said there were 45 unpaid school meals accounts as of Tuesday, totaling more than $27,000.

He also said the school district has made every effort to avoid taking families to court.

“We’ve sent out automated calls, texts, letters, personal calls. Those have gone out numerous times this school year,” Burnette said.

According to him, it helped but it’s still not enough.

The district’s last ditch effort was to make an appeal on Facebook last week.

Since then, one family has come forward to address their account.

Brenda Jones has a grandchild in middle school in Carroll County.

Jones wasn’t firmly on one side of the issue or the other Tuesday.

“I lean towards every child having a meal. I would hate to think of any child not being able to have a meal at school," said Jones.

Jenna Bond is a senior at Fort Chiswell High School and a former Carroll County Schools student.

She knew kids who didn’t always keep their lunch accounts paid and said knowing they could now face a legal battle is sad but believes it could be avoided.

“I do believe there are a lot of ways to get around it if you don’t have the money to pay. There are programs that you can sign up for," Bond said.

Since 10 News first reported the school district’s plan Feb. 21, hundreds of people have commented on and shared the story.

Tonya Francis said, “It’s such a disgusting thing to use this as a means to rectify poor money management.”

Christy Gravely said, “Feed these kids for free. It’s ridiculous how these schools are.”

Frank House, however, agrees with the school district. He said, “The parents in question should be held accountable in court if necessary.”

Burnette said there’s no telling how long the legal action will take or how much it will cost the district, but he’s hopeful this won’t have to happen again in the future.

This is expected to come up during the next Carroll County School Board meeting on Thursday, March 12.

Public comment begins at 6 p.m.