Remove partial meal policy in Durango School District 9R

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The meal charge policies of Durango School District 9R had the spotlight put on them last year when a large sign was posted at the Miller Middle School cafeteria stating, “Kiddos – partial lunch will be given to you if you have charges [of] $8 or more. Be prepared for partial lunches from here until the end of [the] school year!” A fundraiser was started by one of the Miller Middle School teachers, Robyn Baxendale, and over $2000 was raised in a matter of days. She also submitted a list of lunch policy suggestions that was reviewed by the board. The school board reviewed the policy and policy suggestions, but no changes were made.

This policy was recently brought to light again on Facebook, after an editorial “Our view: It’s time to give every Durango student a full midday meal" was published on January 24, 2020, in the Durango Herald. Our community was in outrage. Through a group of generous donations, the school district’s entire school lunch debt was paid off in 2 weeks. While we understand that the school district has budget constraints, we are unsure why the administration and board have not made changes to policies that unfortunately humiliate kids over lunch debt that is not under their control, when there are organizations, businesses, and community members who clearly want to help. 

Whether the debt is due to parents’ inability to pay or due to parents being so busy with work, kids’ activities, etc. they have just not gotten around to loading their child’s lunch account with funds, it is not ok to humiliate these kids in front of their peers as well as not provide a substantial and well-balanced meal. For some of these students, the meals they receive at school may be the best and only full meals they receive. In addition, kids who are hungry, are unable to focus on what they are at school to do: learn. Children who are attending class hungry and unfocused are a detriment to the overall learning environment including teachers and other students. 

One of the core beliefs listed on the Durango School District 9R’s website is “We create a positive environment for all, that inspires commitment to the mission and vision of the district. We, as professionals in 9-R, seek to continue to grow and develop our ability to deliver a quality product and service to our students, their families, our colleagues, and our community.” The partial lunch policy is in direct contradiction with this core belief. It does not ensure a positive environment for all and does not lead to an overall quality product and service. 

We would respectfully request that the board of directors move immediately to:

*reevaluate the Meal Charge Regulation PK-12, item 3 to state that students can charge meals as needed and that school debt communication is only with parents/guardians, not students to ensure that shaming and humiliation are not occurring at the schools.

*remove the partial meal policy (Meal Charge Regulation PK-12, item 4) and ensure that ALL students receive full and complete meals.

*partner with community members, businesses and nonprofit organizations to ensure that funding for these debts is secured.