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School lunches

Jill Schwan, center, monitors a computer screen as students at Robert Miller Elementary School type in their lunch code drawn from an account before sitting to eat in the cafeteria in Bismarck in 2017.

The Bismarck School Board unanimously approved an updated meal charging policy Wednesday night in an effort to reduce the $32,000 debt owed by families who failed to pay for their children's lunches.

The updated policy outlines several additional steps the Bismarck Public Schools district will follow to ensure families don't fail into arrears on lunch payments in the future.

This includes requiring child nutrition services be a part of central registration, allowing school principals to vouch for families to be approved for free and reduced lunches and requiring families pay any outstanding balances on their child's account prior to their child attending prom or their graduation ceremony.

"I'm appreciative of the revisions ... these will help to make this process better," said Karl Lembke, school board member.

The $32,000 negative lunch debt stems from 10 years worth of unpaid meals, $9,000 of which is owed by students who are now adults and no longer in the school system.

Uselman said a report will be presented to board members next month on how they could collect some of the debt, adding that some donors have come forward who are interested in paying off the negative lunch balance.

Elementary space

The Bismarck School Board also heard recommendations Wednesday from a 75-member community group that was charged with identifying options to alleviate overcrowding in some of the district's 16 elementary schools.

The group was composed of school employees, parents and community members that met four times since April. Rob Schwarz, a school planner with RSP Associates who was involved in the committee's work, told the board 422 more elementary school children will enter BPS in the next five years.

Their suggestions include, over the next four years, expanding and repurposing some of the schools, making micro-boundary adjustments, including moving students living north of Interstate 94 from Sunrise Elementary School to Miller Elementary School for the 2018-19 school year, and allocating funds to renovate aging Northridge Elementary School.

In the next five years, the group proposed the district build a new elementary school where residential growth has occurred in the city.

The board took the recommendations under advisement, and will continue to discuss the proposals at future meetings.

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(Reach Blair Emerson at 701-250-8251 or