Catering to parents

LIHUE — The days of parents or guardians going to school to deposit money into their child’s lunch account may soon be over.

The Hawaii State Department of Education is implementing a new program called SchoolCafe, a service that will allow parents to monitor and pay for their child’s school meals online and through a mobile device.

“The biggest thing is allowing parents more access and giving them more convenience,” said Dexter Kishia, supervisor for HIDOE’s School Food Services Branch. “Definite community voice was heard and wanting more convenience was essential.”

Doing business online also frees up school personnel from processing cash and check payments, she added.

SchoolCafe will be run using a school nutrition food service software called PrimeroEdge. While it is more convenient for parents to pay online rather than drive to the front office of the school, a 5 percent convenience fee will be charged for each mobile/online payment.

The fee will not go to the school or HIDOE, it will go to the software company.

The PrimeroEdge software cost HIDOE $870,000 and includes 18 months of service, installation and staff training. The annual cost after the 18 months will be $350,000, which will be paid for by the department.

“I think it’s a benefit for our families. Many parents are working and can’t make it to the school will be able to use this system,” said Bill Arakaki, Kauai Complex-Area Superintendent. “It’s interesting because in May 2014, there was an issue regarding negative balances in student’s lunch accounts from parents. It’s something that even back then was discussed and it’s great that the department has looked into having this type of system.”

Text alerts are part of this program when a student’s account is getting low, and Kishia said that this type of program will benefit parents where they can also make automatic withdrawals.

The program is set to kick off on Kauai within the next few weeks.

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