TOWNSEND -- With just a day left before the first day of school, the North Middlesex Regional School Committee approved first readings of several policy changes, including policies on meal charges and graduation requirements.
The meal-charge policy outlines procedures for collecting overdue school-lunch payments, and states that those who do not pay may be prohibited from participation in senior activities or any fee-based programs. The school district may also file in small-claims court if the money is not paid.
Committee member Jonna Clermont questioned whether the fee to file in small-claims court would outweigh the benefits in many cases.
Policy subcommittee Chairwoman Randee Rusch said the policy would be implemented on a case-by-case basis, depending on the amount of the charges and the family's payment history.
"We left this policy intentionally with the possibility for the administration to have judgment, because there are a lot of circumstances that come up that we can't cover in a policy," Rusch said.
The issue of unpaid meal charges is a major problem in the school budget, Superintendent of Schools Joan Landers said. In the last policy subcommittee meeting, she said the school district is owed about $10,000 in unpaid lunches.
"The reality, from researching it across the country, and this state in particular, is this issue gets out of hand really, really quickly for school districts," Landers said.
The approved graduation policy addressed discrepancies in graduation requirements that were listed for the class of 2016.
Under the previously published graduation requirements, which affect this year's sophomore class, students were required to complete 15 to 20 credits equaling three to four full courses of math to graduate, which could possibly be completed in two years.
However, state guidelines strongly recommend that beginning with the class of 2016, students take at least three, but preferably four years of math.
The committee unanimously approved the policy allowing students to take the minimum listed in the requirements to honor the guidelines that were presented to students in their freshman year. However, they also added a disclaimer to the student handbook urging students to abide by state recommendations and to consult with guidance counselors before opting out of math classes.
Also approved were policies on class sizes, first aid and facilities-development goals.
A motion to approve a policy detailing the annual user fee and athletic-fee schedule was withdrawn after arguments that the fees should not be listed in the policy itself.
"I was under the impression that we don't make it a part of our policy just because of concerns of keeping up with it," committee member Susan Robbins said after other members raised concerns about having to update the policy when fees change.
Robbins suggested including the fee schedule in the student handbook and on the school website, rather than in the policy.
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