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WCSD Board prepares for school year, mulls shared snack policy

Times Observer photo by Brian Ferry The sign at the Warren County School District central office shows that the school year begins Wednesday, Aug. 31.

Warren County School District board members are mulling a change to the district’s policy on ‘shared snacks’ like birthday cupcakes or cookies.

The proposal would end the practice, with the rationale of avoiding potentially serious allergic reactions and to avoid stigmatizing students who are unable to bring snacks. Providing snacks for students is also part of the food service provider’s agreement with the district.

“What this policy would do would terminate the parents’ ability to bring snacks to the classroom” on special occasions, Board Member Arthur Stewart said. “It denies this opportunity that we’ve had for generations to have the parents join the school atmosphere.”

“Here we have moved to a radically sterile program where you’re not even having parents celebrate particular occasions,” he said. “You’re passing money to the PTO… the love that a parent wants to share is just not going to be a possibility.

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All the good that comes from that is going to be forfeited.”

“Somehow our parents and our grandparents found a way to do it,” Arthur Stewart said. I think we can find a way to do it.”

“We have other policies where we bemoan the lack of parent involvement,” he said. “We want to engender that public participation.”

He said he remembers a time from elementary school when his parents sent a snack with him and that his children have similar good memories.

“We lose that love that the parents bring into the school when we lose this interaction,” he said.

Amy Stewart said the proposal was driven by the elementary teachers and principals.

“They’re nervous… making sure a kid doesn’t get something they shouldn’t have,” she said. “When they describe things that make their life difficult, this is one of the things.”

Allowing parents who would like a class to have a snack on a particular occasion to donate to the parent teacher organization to fund a snack through Nutrition Inc. would ensure – through the provider’s knowledge of what is in the products it purchases – that there would not be allergic reactions. Asked about what kinds of snacks Nutrition could deliver, Director of Business Services Jim Grosch mentioned pizza and cupcakes.

Amy Stewart said about 20 percent of the district’s students are sensitive to some kind of food products.

“We’re trying to develop a system that won’t fail,” she said. “I can’t share health information about a child” that could help a parent prepare appropriate snacks.

“I don’t want to see mistakes made with well-intended acts,” she said. “We want kids to celebrate birthdays. We want them to have fun. We don’t want that to be at the expense of someone having a catastrophic event.”

The mental health aspect of the situation was another concern.

“As good as my kids felt about the cookies, because their parents were able to send them… there are kids that feel awful because they can’t,” Amy Stewart said.

The board chose to delay further discussion and action on the item and suggested that the district’s wellness committee could investigate some options.

During Monday’s meeting, the board also hired half the number of remaining teachers needed for the start of the school year. The board formalized the hiring of six new teachers at Monday’s regular meeting. Superintendent Amy Stewart said there are six positions remaining to be filled. The board will hold a special meeting on Aug. 29, giving the members one more opportunity to fill those positions before school starts on Aug. 31.

Stewart said districts statewide have been asked to notify their intermediate units if they plan to delay the start of their school years due to staffing issues.

“We are on target,” she said. “I reported that we were going to be business-as-usual and starting on time.”

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