The McCracken County School District is asking parents to help reduce $31,986 in unpaid cafeteria bills.
McCracken County High School principal Michael Ceglinski sent an email Wednesday asking parents to pay off what their students' owed in meal charges accrued throughout their academic careers.
Public Affairs Director Jayme Jones said the debt follows an individual student from first grade to senior year and the high school is the one that ends up with the unpaid bill when the senior graduates. She said the debt becomes difficult to recoup because the school can't bar students from receiving a diploma.
“We do have some policies and procedures in place, but they will not keep them from graduating," Jones said. "We could eventually, if it gets really bad and they do not pay, they can take them to small claims court if that’s what that came to. But of course they try to keep everyone to pay up front, just common courtesy to pay your bills kind of thing, we don’t want to get into being a collection agency.”
Jones said MCHS inherited $27,000 at the beginning of the school year of and accrued some $4,000 since.
"There are 2,000 students at that school and if they all didn’t pay starting in their kindergarten years, it adds up over the years and that’s what came from the three high schools," Jones said.
She said even with an outstanding balance, the school is still obliged to provide a full meal to the student but disallows the purchase of extra a la carte items.
Jones said that the school lunch programs are not funded by state or federal tax dollars and that the cafeteria is fully self-funded.
The average cost of for feeding a MCHS student per day ranges from $3-$3.25, including breakfast and lunch meals. 46% of the school's students are on free and reduced price lunch programs.
The district expects to recoup most of the charges and may try to work with some of the families through summer payment plans.