Public schools switching to prepaid meal system
On May 1 my daughter brought home a letter from Aikahi Elementary School saying it was starting a no-cash, prepayment meal system starting that day. It said the school would no longer accept cash from students for meals and that we need to set up an account for our child by sending in a check, money order or cash. Is this legal?
Answer: It is legal and in effect at 222 out of 258 public schools in Hawaii.
"I started before spring break doing PR (public relations)" on this, said Vice Principal Randy Scoville.
Several notices had been sent home with students and publicized in newsletters and policy statements, said Scoville, who is overseeing conversion to the new system. "A good month" was spent in getting the word out before the start date, he said.
Aikahi is among the last public schools to convert to the prepayment system, which the state Department of Education's Food Services Program began implementing in the late 1980s.
The beauty of the system is that the child does not have to carry cash to purchase lunch, and "99.9 percent of parents think it's wonderful," said Glenna Owens, director of food services.
The goal is to implement the "Point of Service" (POS) system statewide, she said. "Most (school) districts on the mainland have been on POS for years and years, districtwide."
At Aikahi the recommendation is that parents deposit $20 a month into their account for students paying full price for lunch, and $5 for students paying reduced prices.
"But if they just wanted to put in (money) for a week (or less), that's fine," Scoville said. "It works like a checking account (using a student's ID card). Every time the child goes into line, the amount of the lunch is debited from the account."
Not only is it more convenient for students, it also helps to get them their lunch faster, he said.
Whenever a student's account goes below a certain amount, a notice is sent home reminding parents to deposit more money.
"We also have an automatic message that's generated when it goes into negative balance," Scoville said. "We call it a lunch loan."
A prepayment deposit box has been set up on the front counter of the school office.
Asked why Aikahi implemented the system late in the school year, Scoville said the school was waiting for authorization from the Food Services Branch, which funds part of the project.
"We purchase the computer, and they purchase the software and do the training," he said.
To the gentleman from Maili who shared a table at Helena's
and treated my guest from Japan and me to lunch. He showed the aloha spirit to a total stranger who was introducing a guest to the best Hawaiian food in town
. I know there will be a chance for me to return the favor, if not to him, then to someone else. -- JTI
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