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Willmar Schools offer online payment of meal accounts

WILLMAR -- Willmar Schools have introduced an online payment system for school meal accounts.

The PaySchools system went into operation Wednesday on the district's Parent Portal Web site.

Many of the parents in the district have a Parent Portal account, which they can use to check on schedules, assignments and grades. Now, they can also use it to make secure electronic payments to the meal accounts.

With PaySchools, families can use e-checks from their bank accounts, debit cards or credit cards to fund meal accounts.

Later on, parents may be able to use the system to pay other school-related fees, said Pam Harrington, the district's business and finance director.

"Our first priority was to get the meal accounts on line," she said.

Before, parents used cash or paper checks to put money into accounts, and recording that took a lot of staff time, Harrington said.

The district will pay a fee of 3.5 percent of transactions.

"We are not passing that fee on to parents, because we want parents to use it," Harrington said. Increased efficiency and security will help cover the cost of the fees.

"I'm very excited about being able to offer this to parents," she said. "It's very user-friendly."

The district has a new policy that does not allow students to charge meals. In the past, students could charge up to $5 in meals if their accounts were empty. The School Board discontinued that practice at the end of the last school year.

The school district encourages families who have trouble paying for school meals to apply for free or reduced-price meals. Applications are due by Aug. 31 to have applications processed before school starts.

Students in grades K-8 receive a free breakfast, and students in 9-12 pay $1.10 for breakfast. Breakfast is free for all students who receive free or reduced-price meals.

Lunch prices are $1.70 for grades K-5, $1.85 for grades 6-12 and $3 for adults.

Linda Vanderwerf

I cover education issues for the West Central Tribune and have worked for the paper since 1995. I have worked in journalism since 1981.

Follow me on Twitter: @lindavanderwerf

(320) 214-4340