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School lunch debt is at $47,000

Pike County board of education members heard that the cafeteria debt across all schools for the past school year is around $47,000. It was noted that for years due to COVID, students were allowed to eat free and to prevent shaming and embarrassment, Pike students are not denied meals regardless of cafeteria debt. Another factor is the increasing cost of breakfast and lunch foods. Promissory notes will be completed at Open House and payments can be made for families owing money. Donations are accepted from local businesses or families who would like to pay the debts of local students and graduating seniors with positive balances can donate the funds to help for their fellow students. If anyone would like to donate to help pay down the student debt, they can contact Tammy Bell at or at 770-567-8489.

In neighboring Lamar County, school administrators were facing a similar situation when earlier this year, Tyler and Shelby Young, owners of Hines Prescription Shop in Barnesville, made a substantial donation to pay off accumulated past due school meal fees.

“We are glad we could help with a need in our community. This will not fix the problem long term but we hope it provided relief. We hope to inspire others to look for needs within our community and help where they are able,” Tyler Young said.

In Pike, automated school calls are sent out weekly and emails sent twice a week to families with debt. Letters are mailed to families with outstanding debt. Certified letters are mailed to families with excessive debt warning that they will be referred to Magistrate Court if not resolved by a certain date and when all procedures have been exhausted, families are referred to Magistrate Court for assistance with collection.

School Nutrition Program director Tammy Bell asked board members to allow the pursuit of a collection agency to assist with collecting the excessive debt.

It was noted that in one case in Pike, the cost to file the case in Magistrate Court is $106 and the sheriff’s office made attempts to serve the parent with court papers but the case was referred back to the district because no contact was made with the parent.

“We feel we have exhausted all means of collections at this point,” said Bell. “This would give us a better opportunity to help collect the debt that has been accrued.”

According to the Associated press, 76% of school districts in the U.S. have lunch debt.

School board members also heard a facilities update, including that all bathroom school floors were resealed with epoxy and the walls repainted. Facilities director Mick Rawls presented the report and noted that the auditorium project is nearing completion. A freezer has been installed at the pre-K. The pre-K and Ninth Grade Academy buildings have been painted. Cinder block walls have been placed in the old Zebulon High School classroom and the ISS room at the Ninth Grade Academy.

Future projects include traffic improvements, writing the high school’s Ag barn for power, replacing the rotting ADA ramp at the entrance of the pre-K building, resealing and restriping the NGA and pre-k parking areas and placing a new pipe from the pre-k building to the manhole.

It was also noted that an RFP for tennis court improvements has been submitted but there has been no response. Other upcoming SPLOST projects include high school baseball and high school softball bleachers, the renovation of the stadium fieldhouse and weight room and improvements at the Pirate Dome weight room.

The school board also:

  • Approved the 2023-24 contract with Griffin Regional Educational Service Agency (RESA).
  • Reviewed the board policy regarding participation in board members, regulation of pre-K programs and the issuing of medication to students.

    • Reviewed job descriptions for deputy school superintendent, director of human resources, human resources specialist, media center paraprofessional, middle and high school registrar, social worker and federal programs and family engagement coordinator.
  • Issued an RFP for construction management at-risk services related to sports complex upgrades to the high school softball complex, high school baseball complex, tennis court complex, field house and weight room renovations, parking lot construction and central office renovations.

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