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School Wellness Committee Presents Multiple Recommendations During May Board Meeting

By Crystal Howerton

School Nurse Kathy Palmer, RN met with the KCR-1 Board of Education during the regular May meeting to discuss recommendations for the School Wellness Policy.   The School Wellness Committee voted and approved the following recommendations during their meeting on Monday evening, May 14, 2007.
#1 District Nutrition Standards – regarding governing the sale of beverages on school grounds.     
The School Wellness Committee recommends that water and 100% fruit juices be added to soda vending machines on school property.  Palmer reports that there are four vending machines that offer only soda.  They recommend the contract with Pepsi-Cola be adjusted to offer additional healthy choices.
Palmer said that surrounding school districts were contacted regarding their vending machines and the following information was obtained.  Clark County R-III Schools contract with Pepsi-Cola and offer no soda, only 100% fruit juices and water.  Kirksville R-III Schools also contracts with Pepsi-Cola offers juice, water, and soda.  Macon County R-1 Schools contract with Coca-Cola and provide juice, water, and sports drinks, in addition to soda.
"We’re not asking that you remove soda from the vending machines, just that students are given the option of healthier choices," said Palmer.
#2 Student Nutrition – District Nutritional Standards (need to show that the District is moving beyond the Missouri Eat Smart minimum guidelines).
The Missouri Eat Smart minimum guidelines state that all school meals comply with USDA regulations and state policies.
The School Wellness Committee suggested that the availability of fresh fruits and vegetables to students/staff be increased.   They suggested that the ala carte offered to Middle School and High School students supply chef salad and fresh fruits/vegetables.  In the elementary, offer yogurt as a second choice for main entrée with the tray or provide chef salad as a second tray choice.  Currently, chef salads are not offered as a lunch option.  Occasionally, lettuce is included as a side on the tray lunch.
Superintendent Terry Robertson mentioned concerns about the increased cost of fresh fruits and vegetables.  He said that Elementary students, especially, have a tendency to waste food.
"This doesn’t have to be every day," replied Palmer, "even once or twice a week would be an improvement."
 #3 Student Nutrition – The School Wellness Committee advises that students be allowed to carry water (purchased at school) during class.  "Students are already allowed to carry water during testing periods to aid with performance," said Palmer.  "Why not all the time?" 
According to Palmer, there are positive health benefits to having water available.  One of which includes a decrease in headaches, which results in a decrease of office visits.  A decrease in office visits is an evaluation component of the School Wellness Policy.
#4 Student Nutrition – The School Breakfast/Lunch Programs; Cafeteria Environment
The School Wellness Policy describes a cafeteria environment as a relaxed, enjoyable climate with pleasant surroundings and adequate time to eat meals.  The federal/state guidelines recommend twenty minutes of sitting/eating time.
The School Wellness Committee recommends that five minutes be added to each group lunchtime schedule, which would increase the total cafeteria time by twenty minutes. 
Palmer suggests that school board members take the opportunity to eat at school, so they could observe time spent waiting in line and the lack of time spent actually eating.  I believe some students choose ala carte over a tray lunch because the line isn’t as long.  "As a parent," said Palmer, "I dislike paying for meals that my child does not have time to eat." 
The School Wellness Committee also advised that the "stoplight" in the elementary cafeteria be eliminated.   The stoplight is used to regulate noise levels in the elementary cafeteria.  When the stoplight turns red, noise levels have exceeded the limit and a buzzer is activated.  According to Palmer, the alarm is mostly triggered by students standing in line directly under the stoplight and the alarm can be heard in the elementary office with the doors closed.  "Not relaxing or enjoyable," said Palmer.
#5 Student Physical Activity – District Physical Activity Goal The School Wellness Policy states that physical activity be provided and promoting a physically active lifestyle.
The School Wellness Committee recommends that the District discourage the use of withholding physical activity (recess) as discipline/punishment of students by teachers. 
"Occasionally, students lose time from recess for incomplete homework or behavioral issues," stated Palmer.  We recommend that teachers utilize alternative forms of discipline than withholding or reducing physical activity."
#6 Student Physical Activity – District Physical Activity Goal
The School Wellness Policy states that students should be able to demonstrate competency through application of knowledge, skills, and practice.  The federal/state guidelines recommend 150 minutes of physical education per week for elementary students. 
KCR-I students in kindergarten through fifth grade meet once a week for approximately 45 minutes.  Palmer states that 21% of Knox County students K-5 are obese (> 95% above ideal weight) and approximately another 10% are at risk for being overweight (> 90% above ideal weight).  The federal/state guidelines for middle school and high school recommends: MS – 225 minutes/week and HS – 2 units of P.E.  MS students at Knox County receive 200 minutes per week and HS students receive 1 unit of P.E. 
Palmer reported that only one fifth grade student at Knox County was able to run a mile in the recommended time, stating that when students only meet once a week in P.E. for approximately 45 minutes it is difficult to reach a high level of competency and skills. 
The School Wellness Committee recommends that more P.E. time be provided during the school week for elementary students.  They suggest that the school day may need to be lengthened in order to meet the academic and physical needs of students. 
"The Committee realizes that this may be the most difficult to implement," commented Palmer.
#7 Student Physical Activity – District Physical Activity Goal
   The federal/state guidelines recommend one hour per day of recess.  At Knox County, Kindergarten, first, and second grades receive 35 minutes recess/day, third and fourth grades receive 30 minutes recess/day and fifth grade receives 15 minutes recess/day per teacher discretion.
The School Wellness Committee recommends that the District provide more recess time.  Again, the school day may need to be lengthened to meet the academic and physical needs of the students.
Following Palmer’s update, Supt. Robertson questioned what parent education is provided on wellness. 
"We send a newsletter home with students in K-5 offering healthy snack ideas and games that encourage physical activity, and health classes send parent letters home occasionally.  However, children spend the majority of their waking hours at school and we cannot ignore our responsibility," explained Palmer.
   The School Health Advisory Council in Knox County has been in effect for 10 years.  In 2005, it was required that all school boards adopt the School Wellness Policies prior to the first day of the 2006-07 school year.  This was mandated for all schools nationally that participate in the free or reduced lunch programs.  Knox County’s School Wellness Committee consists of 43 members including parents, students, administration, school board member, Health/P.E. educators, Parents as Teachers, school counselors, nutrition director, and members of local organizations.  The School Wellness Policy is subject to yearly evaluations through the year 2010.   According to Palmer, approximately 12-15 members of the Committee met 4 times this school year prior to making the above recommendations.  "We know that realistically, all of these changes can’t be made for the next school year," said Palmer.  "But, by the June school board meeting, the District needs to show that they are implementing some of these changes.  Hopefully, we will be a lot closer to meeting our goals by 2010."
   The Board of Education heard the recommendations made by the School Wellness Committee and, per Supt. Robertson’s suggestion, the Board voted that the administration and the School Nurse meet and arrive at a middle ground on the recommendations to make progress in meeting the goals.