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Published: Thursday, 8/28/2003

Lunch cash register silent

BY JANET ROMAKER
BLADE STAFF WRITER

School's open, and the morning ritual has returned.

Somewhere between the alarm clock and the missing sock, it goes something like this:

Parent, 15 minutes before bus arrives: “Do you have lunch money?”

Student, nearly 10 minutes later: “What?”

Parent: “Lunch money. Do you need some money?”

Student, head buried in book bag: “Uh, don't think so.”

Parent: “OK.”'

Student, running toward bus stop: “Hey, I need lunch money.”

Starting this school year, some parents in the Maumee school district can say so long to the daily search for dollar bills to pay for school lunches.

School officials are implementing the use of a new point-of-service, or POS, system in Maumee High School and Gateway Middle School.

Essentially, it's a new, computerized cash register system that allows prepayment for student meals and other food items, said Mary Bottoni, supervisor of food services.

Participation is voluntary, but parents are being encouraged to make use of the new system, she said. High school students yesterday were introduced to the system, and the middle school will be added soon.

During school pre-registration parents had the option of prepaying for food items. Some put a few dollars into their children's accounts, and one parent put $400 into the program to pay for meals. Students can use the prepaid funds to purchase lunch and breakfast.

In the past, students could prepay for a meal, but they had to bring cash for extra items. Now students can purchase additional items using prepayments.

School officials said that there are several advantages to the prepayment system, including that students spend the money on lunch, not on other items; parents and students do not have to scramble to find lunch money each day; and students eligible for free or reduced-price meals have complete anonymity by prepaying, which greatly enhances the confidentiality for those students.

The new system reduces the amount of paperwork, and makes record keeping easier, officials said.

Students who use the prepayment system will have to have their student identification card with them or they will have to remember their student ID number to tap into their accounts.

The main attraction of the new program for students likely will be the flexibility it offers. “This way students can purchase what they want,” Ms. Bottoni.

Parents can put money in at the beginning of the year and students will work down the balance. If parents are concerned that their children are going through the funds too fast, the school can run reports to show what was purchased.

Some other schools in the Toledo area use a prepayment system, including St. Ursula Academy. Perrysburg schools have a variety of payment methods.

Anthony Wayne school district is looking into a debit-card system, and probably will implement a system in the near future for its food-service operations, according to Susan Cross, district spokesman.

In the Otsego school district, students pay for lunches the old-fashioned way - with cash, said Superintendent Joe Long.


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