Districts remind that help is available for families struggling to pay for school meals and fees

Aug 18, 2022, 6:45 PM | Updated: 7:56 pm

MURRAY, Utah – Back to school also means many Utah families will be paying for school meals and fees, but districts remind that help is available for families struggling to pay.

Now that federal pandemic relief has stopped for school breakfast and lunch, parents who need assistance will again need to apply for free or reduced meals for their students.

Canyons School District implementing new school lunch program

“I think some people might be caught off guard since it was free in the last couple of years,” Scott Wihongi, the assistant superintendent at Murray School District, said.

And with families dealing with soaring inflation, school fees charged for middle and high school students can also be a challenge.

Schools in Utah can charge fees for anything from instrument rentals to sports to class costs but there is help available in the form of a fee waiver.

“State law requires schools to ensure that a fee waiver or other provisions in lieu of a fee waiver is available to any student whose parents are unable to pay a fee,” says an informational poster from the Utah State Board of Education.

“If a student is eligible for fee waivers, ALL fees must be waived,” the poster goes on to say. “This includes fees for registration, books, classes, sports, clubs, drill teams, trips, gate fees, uniforms, activity cards, lockers, extracurricular activities, team summer camps, etc.”

The state board also reminds that school fees are not permitted during the regular school day for students in grades kindergarten through sixth grade.

During his time as principal at Murray High, Wihongi said he saw how fee waivers can help students have full access to any activity or class that’s school sponsored without cost getting in the way.

“Opening the opportunities to them by helping them overcome some of these financial barriers is really impactful for many of our families out there,” he said. “We don’t want any opportunities closed off to anyone based on financial situations.”

Granite School District spokesperson Ben Horsley said families are encouraged to apply for free and reduced lunch and fee waivers even if they are unsure about eligibility

“Just realize, if you’re going through a difficult circumstance, maybe a job loss or your family’s been negatively impacted by some other factors, including COVID, there is some financial relief available to eligible families,” he said.

Both Murray and Granite districts remind that the application for free lunch is separate from the application for school fees.

“Not everyone who qualifies applies,” Wihongi said. “So it’s important that they realize if you’re eligible, please apply.”

“But it’s very important, right out of the gate here at the start of the school year, go in and see if you’re eligible,” Horsley said. “Have a quick conversation. Give a phone call to the front office staff.”

Visit the Utah State Board of Education’s website for more information and to download the application form.

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Districts remind that help is available for families struggling to pay for school meals and fees