Cash becoming a thing of the past at Western Pennsylvania schools
While their parents likely remember the days of protecting lunch money from school bullies, today's students have little reason to carry cash to school, they say.
The prevalence of Personal Identification Number, or PIN, systems and online ordering has taken a burden off staff who handle transactions for everything from lunch purchases to yearbook orders.
“Rarely do kids need cash, if ever,” said Michael Sable, principal of West Mifflin Area Middle School.
As is true at many Western Pennsylvania schools, students in the district don't need cash to get through the lunch line. Students simply punch their PIN into a keypad, and the cost of the meal is subtracted from an account their parents can monitor and replenish online.
“It's easier than giving money,” said Dennis Foy, 11, who like many of his fifth-grade peers has never had to bring cash to school for lunch. “You don't have to wait in line long.”
At Quaker Valley School District, parents can pay online for yearbooks and order class rings and graduation announcements, as well as pay in advance for their children's food service.
“Essentially, if a vendor has a website for these sorts of services, students can order online,” said Tina Vojtko, district spokeswoman. “It's basically students just going to a vendor's site and buying things.”
Eliminating cash transactions makes things easier on everyone from cafeteria workers to teachers, educators say.
“Not having to worry about an envelope filled with cash and checks in my desk is a load off my mind,” said Rob Hooton, yearbook sponsor and technology education teacher at Bethel Park High School, where students order yearbooks online.
Pine-Richland School District students and parents can pay online or by check for activity fees, yearbooks and meals.
“We discourage cash transactions at lunch time,” said Cherry Cerminara, general manager with Sodexo, food provider for the district. “It's a lot faster, especially with the little ones.”
Cafeteria manager Linda Fulmer has been with the district for 24 years and remembers the days of counting change. She said she greatly prefers the current method.
“You don't have to worry about putting your money in your pocket or your locker and it not being there,” she said.
Freshman Chelsea Rourke, 15, of Richland says she likes that she doesn't have to bring a purse to school.
“The only reason people bring money is for the vending machines,” she said.
Senior Austin Lent, 18, of Wexford likes the efficiency of his school's lunch system.
“It's easy,” he said. “You don't have to worry about money that way.”
While purchasing lunch is as easy as remembering a number, students can still find themselves in cash-only situations.
During a recent lunch period, Pine-Richland students selling flowers for an upcoming dance accepted dollar bills only.
And that meant some advance planning, in an era of PINs.
“We put up signs so people know to bring money during lunches,” said freshman Olivia Folmer, 14, of Richland.
Rachel Weaver is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 412-320-7948 or firstname.lastname@example.org.