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Archive for Wednesday, June 13, 2007

District wellness program helping change mind-set

June 13, 2007

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Lawrence school officials say their wellness policy is helping improve how students and families talk and think about healthy living - but bad habits aren't easily broken.

Along the way, some common practices, such as organizing cookie-dough fundraisers and punishing disobedient students by withholding recess, have been abandoned.

This week, district staff reported to the school board that more than 75 percent of nutrition and nutrition-education goals have been met. But there's still work to do.

For example, the wellness policy says that during the 2007-08 school year, fewer than 50 percent of fundraising activities will involve the sale of food or beverages.

"Our schools need to do fundraising to support some extra project that the budget can't support," said Bruce Passman, deputy superintendent. "Historically, schools have been famous for fundraising by selling candy and goods like that. And we're just asking them to think differently. We've given them some ideas about other ways to fundraise for their schools."

Teachers also are changing their perception of punishment. In the past, Passman said, staff members have withheld recess as punishment. Or, he said, perhaps a punishment - usually in a physical education class - included extra laps or pushups.

But the wellness policy says physical activity cannot be used or withheld as punishment during the school day.

"Sometimes, when teachers are working with kids in certain situations, there are no other options," Passman said, "and we realize that we have to be a little bit flexible with that."

Other challenges the district is facing because of the wellness policy are financial. Last year, the food services department lost $185,000 because of a decrease in a la carte sales.

Passman said the district has offset part of that because the district is selling more meals, as opposed to a la carte snacks, but the department still faces a shortfall.

"You know, the bottom line is, we knew when we started this program that there would be some issues in terms of funding it," he said. "The food services program has to fund itself. We knew that we would have to make adjustments."

Passman said a food and beverage price increase could help recoup those losses. District officials will decide in coming weeks whether that's necessary.

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