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NM panel to bring meal charge, graduation policies to a vote


PEPPERELL — Members of the North Middlesex School District Policy Subcommittee voted to bring three policies before the next meeting of the full School Committee — policies on meal charges, graduation requirements and class size.

The meal charge policy outlines procedures for collecting overdue school lunch payments, and the consequences for those who fail to pay. Those who do not pay may be prohibited from participation in senior activities or any fee-based programs. The school district may also choose to file in small-claims court if the money is not paid.

Policy subcommittee chair Randee Rusch said the policy is to combat $10,000 in overdue lunch balances across the district.

“Ten thousand dollars is a lot of money. We want to have a policy in place before it gets more out of hand,” Rusch said.

The committee debated whether to include withholding of graduation tickets as a last resort for those with unpaid bills. They decided not to include it specifically, claiming that it would be covered under the earlier provision of prohibited participation in senior activities.

Rusch said that most cases will never get to that point. Many of the decisions will be made on a case-by-case basis depending on the amount of the bill and the family’s payment history.

“There has to be some discretion in there,” Rusch said.

Committee member Anne Adams said ultimately, unpaid bills have far-reaching effects by taking money away from other areas of the budget.

“If you let these things go on forever, every student in the district is going to be impacted,” Adams said.

Committee members also debated an issue over graduation requirements for the class of 2016.

Under the previously published graduation requirements, which affect this year’s sophomore class, students were required to complete 15 to 20 credits equaling three to four full courses of math to graduate, which Superintendent Joan Landers said could possibly be completed in two years.

However, state guidelines strongly recommend that beginning with the class of 2016, students take at least three, but preferably four years of math.

“It’s a transition year, but we have to figure out a way to honor what parents were given,” Landers said.

The subcommittee agreed to present the guidelines for the class of 2016 as they were presented last year when those students were incoming freshmen.

However, they said guidance departments should be advising students that state colleges prefer to see students taking four years of math, rather than consolidating the curriculum to complete it in less time.

The subcommittee also approved a class size policy that does not reference specific numbers or formulas for determining class size, but states that the school district will try to maintain appropriate class sizes within the constraints of the budget.

Follow Chelsea Feinstein at or on Twitter or Tout @cefeinstein.