ISLE OF WIGHT COUNTY, Va. (WAVY) — There is a school debt controversy in Isle of Wight County regarding school lunch and field day celebrations.
Several parents reached out to 10 On Your Side upset because their kids can’t participate in the year-end field day celebration due to school lunch debts.
However, the district wants to emphasize that students and parents who qualify for free or reduced lunch are not a part of the debt figure school district officials say was around $70,000 in September. Those students won’t be excluded from activities such as field day.
Joanna Camilleri has three children in the school district and she wants this policy to change.
“A lot of the parents are really upset,” said Camilleri. “A lot of the kids are going to be excluded from field day, which is the big end of school celebration and it’s in school time.”
A message from the district says: “In keeping with IWCS policy, any student with an outstanding meal debt on June 10 will not be able to participate in Field Day activities June 11; please be sure to pay the outstanding balance by June 10.”
A similar message was sent to Westside Elementary School students.
“I think it’s really unfair to punish kids for something that is completely out of control, because they can’t do anything about it,” Camilleri said. “It’s not really their debt, it’s their parents’ debt and a lot of the parents can’t really do anything about it because some of them just can’t pay it.”
She says kids as young as 5 will be sitting inside, not quite understanding.
“The policy was always you couldn’t do outside activities that cost money, but field day is an in-time school activity that is free,” Camilleri said. “It’s very unfair on the child, it’s a lot for a kid to go through.”
IWCS policy states: “Parents of students with a meal debt of $10.00 or more will receive a notice that their child will be unable to participate in certain supplementary school activities until the debt is cleared. Those activities, but are not limited to: School sponsored dances or events in which students are required to pay, competitive events in which students are required to pay, participating in clubs and other extra-curricular activities (example: safety patrols, field day).”
Here is the division’s statement about the meal debt matter, which again emphasizes that the meal debts do not apply to students and parents who qualify for free or reduced lunch.
The division was faced with growing meal debt ($70,000 in September) and adopted measures to assist with collecting outstanding debt from parents.
The meal debt is NOT generated by families who have qualified for free or reduced lunch.
The School Board wanted to ensure no child was denied a hot breakfast or lunch, or served an alternative lunch, due to a parent not paying their debt. The division focused on limiting participation in extra activities as an incentive for parents to clear their outstanding balance. We want citizens to know that we are implementing strategies to collect money from parents who choose to not pay their debt. Once again, this does NOT affect families who qualify for free or reduced lunch. We also hope our families realize that we are committed to ensuring no student is ever denied a meal because of lack of payment by a parent.
10 On Your Side also spoke with the chairman of the school board, Vicky Hulick. She says parents are encouraged to communicate with their schools, talk with the principal, talk with the bookkeeper, and the division will do its best to work with parents and students.