HELENA, Mont. — Helena Public Schools is warning families with school lunch debt that they plan to turn it over to a collection agency.

Officials say the total debt tops $100,000, with 320 students having a balance above $100.

The school district approved a policy last May allowing it to use collection agencies to recover school lunch debt, but officials had hoped not to use it.

School officials say they’ve contacted families by mail, email and through notes sent home with students, but have still been unsuccessful in recovering the money owed.

Assistant Superintendent Greg Upham says families will be offered a payment plan before a collection agency is involved.

Upham says the students are not being denied meals. Those eligible for free and reduced -price meals are encouraged to apply.

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