NORTH ADAMS -- Dealing with a handful of delinquent lunch accounts warrants a case-by-case approach, school district officials concluded at Tuesday’s School Committee meeting.
Despite the committee’s call for a broad policy adoption to combat the problem at an Aug. 20 meeting, Superintendent James E. Montepare called the process of examining sample meal charging policies for families, under way since then, "cumbersome."
"As I started going through it, [the materials] brought up hundreds of additional questions," Montepare said.
Committee Chairman Mayor Richard J. Alcombright also had concerns with similar policies that target students of offending families by preventing them from participating in events or from receiving report cards, afraid that it would negatively impact some students through no fault of their own.
Alcombright went on to favor the approach of taking the few offenders -- six with $3,000 to $4,000 in bills, the committee reported -- who owe significant sums to small claims court.
"I’m all for [the district] collecting the money it’s owed, but I’m committed to the idea that no kid should be held back or embarrassed in any way because of it," Alcombright said.
The School Nutrition Association advocates that districts adopt a policy to "consistently address the circumstance," saying unpaid lunch bills hurt students and districts.
However, with so few cases
In the plan discussed, delinquent families would be notified of money owed by letter and then by phone, as is the current practice, with a final letter requesting the recipient’s signature if the bill remains unpaid. At that point, the case would be taken to court.
The approach was agreed upon by the committee at the meeting.
Also at the meeting, Montepare said the district is "still in the process of filling gaps" but that the current crop of staff is filling out heading into this school year.
"We’re pretty sound at this point," he said. "We’re always looking for new [teachers’ assistants] and substitutes."
The younger portion of North Adams Public Schools students begin classes today, with the start of classes for students in the upper grades staggered throughout the week.
In other business, Montepare noted that Rev. Eric Malachuk, senior pastor of First Bible Baptist Church, will not open Mount Greylock Christian Academy this year, a program that sees an average of 25 students annually. Malachuk ran the academy for 19 years.
"It was a sad conversation," Montepare said. " ... [the academy] provides a wonderful service to students in that area."
Montepare said he expects home-school requests within the field of study to jump due to the closing.
Committee members also received copies of the district’s annual report at the meeting.
The meeting concluded with the committee going into executive session to discuss collective bargaining.