September 24, 2008

Cashless Payment Program to Be Tested

Columbia County parents might soon be able to pay for their children's school lunches with the click of a mouse.

Greenbrier High, Evans Middle and Riverside Elementary schools recently were selected as test sites for a pilot program using a non-cash payment system.

The county school system partnered with Cashless Schools, an Internet company. With the service, parents can purchase school lunches, pay overdue library fees, buy yearbooks, support an after- school program and more through, using a credit card, debit card or checking account.

Parents can establish accounts on the Web site and transfer funds to that account using a secure server. Pupils then use a personal identification number to access the account to pay for a lunch or other school-related purchases or fees.

"It's a convenience for parents because more and more people are using their credit and debit cards," Columbia County schools Controller Pat Sullivan said. "Hopefully, it will be a convenience for us with less paperwork and (fewer) schools handling money."

The program should begin before the start of the second semester. If it goes well, Ms. Sullivan said, it could expand to the other public schools in the county at the start of the next school year.

The program will contain a complete history of pupil purchases for parents to view, according to the Cashless Schools Web site. Also, parents can set spending limits.

"A good thing about it ... parents can monitor what their kids are eating on a day-to-day basis," Evans Middle School Principal Michael Johnson said. "They can see if they're getting two sandwiches or a sandwich and Gatorade. They can see all that on the system."

The cost to use the service is a $1 monthly fee, and some transaction fees might apply, Ms. Sullivan said.

Ms. Sullivan said she knows of no other area school system offering a similar service.

Aiken County schools Comptroller Tray Traxler said such a service is not available to Aiken County pupils. A phone message left for a Richmond County schools technology official was not returned Monday afternoon.

Reach Donnie Fetter at (706) 868-1222, ext. 115,

or [email protected]

Originally published by Donnie Fetter Columbia County Bureau Chief.

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