Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Salt Lake school officials blame system glitch for lunch debacle

By Devon Dolan, Deseret News

Published: Wed, Feb. 5 8:40 p.m. MST

 My Payments Plus, a system parents use to pay their children's school lunch balances, is demonstrated at a Salt Lake City School Board meeting Tuesday, Feb. 3, 2014. A glitch in the system is said to have led to Uintah Elementary School students' lunches being taken away on Jan. 29.

My Payments Plus, a system parents use to pay their children's school lunch balances, is demonstrated at a Salt Lake City School Board meeting Tuesday, Feb. 3, 2014. A glitch in the system is said to have led to Uintah Elementary School students' lunches being taken away on Jan. 29.

(Jay Dortzbach, Deseret News)

SALT LAKE CITY — Salt Lake City School District officials say a glitch in a new payment system is to blame for several elementary school students going without lunch last week.

A board meeting was held Tuesday night to discuss why dozens of students at Uintah Elementary School had their lunches taken away from them and thrown into the garbage on Jan. 29 after they were told they did not have enough money in their school accounts. Representatives with the district's Child Nutrition Services said the problem came from a new system, My Payments Plus, which was installed at the beginning of the school year.

District Child Nutrition Services director Kelly Orton admitted that the department didn't follow procedures. Orton said parents were either not given enough time to add money into lunch accounts for their children or parents weren't notified at all of the low funds.

"We took trays from and embarrassed students. In this, I am sorry," Orton said. "We weren't effective in getting the word out to the community that it was there … and how to operate it."

The previous system notified parents when their child's school lunch accounts reached $10. However, My Payments Plus doesn't send notices unless parents request it. Child Nutrition Services claims that a letter was sent out.

"To me, it feels like not taking the responsibility where it needs to be," said parent Sarah Turley. "We did not get any notices."

"We feel no child should be denied a lunch ever," added parent Ashley Hoopes.

Orton said the company has changes it would like to implement. Effective immediately, parents will be notified at a $10 balance and each day that there are negative funds. Students will also be able to receive full meals for up to a week.

Some parents who attended the meeting said they still believe the school needs to release an apology.

"Look each child in the eye and bring 600 cupcakes," said parent Lynn Lenardo.

District officials have said they are still investigating whether taking lunches away was proper protocol in this situation.

Email: ddolan@deseretnews.com

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1. Way of the Warrior
Arlington, WA,
Feb. 5, 2014

Yes, yes, that's it! After an in depth investigation it turns out it was a computer glitch that ripped the lunches out of the hands of children and threw them into the trash can. It's the computer's fault! On a side note, we admit it was really just a communication error on our part. No biggie. Problem solved.

2. ekute
Layton, UT,
Feb. 5, 2014

Lame. There's no way to undo the humiliation that the kids are feeling. They should at least get free lunch for the rest of the year...and don't compound the humiliation by publicizing it.

3. McMurphy
St George, Utah,
Feb. 5, 2014

Way of the Warrior has it right.
No -- the new payment is not to blame. The computer did not take away the trays, a person did. Apparently that person was on the bottom of the pecking order and has been placed on administrative leave. Go up the pecking order until you find the person that ordered the action. The school board says they do not yet know who that person is -- clearly not trying very hard. If the school board ever finds out who that person is then it can be determined if that person was following some school board policy or is merely an idiot.

4. BYU Joe
MISSION VIEJO, CA,
Feb. 5, 2014

Rise of the Machines. Call out the Terminator - Computers are taking over. Today it small children's' lunches - tomorrow Nuclear Missiles will be flying unless Matthew Broderick can convince the machine the "only way to win is not to play the game" or in this case "not to serve the lunches."

Apparently some of our Human Counterparts have sided with the computers and have become minions of the machines. Compelled by words on the screen they snatch food from little children and obey without regard.

The End is Near..... Someone call Neo.

(Please see The Terminator, The Matrix and War Games if this post makes no sense)

5. On the other hand
Riverdale, MD,
Feb. 5, 2014

Taking away a child's lunch is cruel and traumatizing. Whichever adult or adults decided on that course of action should apologize personally and individually to each affected student. And surely the school district can provide some kind of training to their decision makers. It should at least hit on at least the following two points:

1. Policies designed to humiliate have no place in the school system.
2. If you need something from parents, you reach out to those parents.

They could serve lunch at the training. Say, a pint of milk and a piece of fruit.