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      Ottumwa School District responds to lunch program concerns

      Several parents are concerned with the lunch program at Evans Middle School.

      Several of our Facebook fans have raised concerns about the lunch program at Evans Middle School and in the Ottumwa School District as a whole. We spoke to the superintendent about how the program works and what changes need to be made.

      Each student has a pre-paid card for lunches, and when their account is close to running out, the student receives a notification. The system currently allows for students to go negative $10 before their account is no longer able to be used, to give students a little bit of leeway.

      "However, as we near the last five, six, seven days of the year, then that shrinks and students aren't allowed to build that ten dollar limit," said Dr. Davis Eidahl, Ottumwa superintdent. "And that's when students get caught in the quandry of not having enough to buy lunch."

      The district also cannot afford to go past the negative $10 mark because the lunch program as a whole would get too far into debt.

      The notification process of the program is important, but the district is looking at making changes to improve communication.

      "We are working on doing a better job in finding avenues to have direct communication with parents so that the child isn't caught in the situation where their balance is at a negative state," Eidahl said. "We don't ever want to see a child go without lunch."

      After feedback from the community, alternative options will be discussed for next year.

      "We have had communication from our community, from our parents, that some of the things that we have in place aren't what's best for students," Eidahl said. "And so we are looking, with suggestions from our community and some input we've received this week, to add some subtle changes just to make it a better scenario for our students."

      There is a federal form available for families who qualify for free or reduced lunch prices. Eidahl said that option is a good alternative for families who cannot replenish funds when the lunch card's account reaches capacity.