A new policy considered for Northport-East Northport Schools would address special management procedures for students with life threatening allergies.
The policies, presented at the Monday Board of Education meeting, would include specific measures to control what food can be shared during birthday celebrations and other activities. A wellness policy with related provisions, in place since 2006, is also under review.
Student Health Services cites the school system's responsibility, along with parents/guardians, to provide a safe and healthy environment for students, and delineates procedures to maintain a healthy learning environment specific to those with a life-threatening allergy.
If adopted, the policy would supplement the existing wellness policy that delineates standards for physical activity, nutritional value of foods sold on premises, and storage and labeling of food brought to school for general distribution.
In its new consideration, the wellness policy includes a number of steps addressing allergies, including creation of a management team, and a rule that pets and animals be banned from school buildings.
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According to the two measures, distribution of food for general consumption by students and faculty members would also be controlled. This would include birthday parties, holiday celebrations, school projects, classroom lessons, and food provided as "any type of reward or incentive program."
The district focuses in detail on how birthdays are celebrated in the schools. According to the terms being proposed, classes would be strongly encouraged to limit celebrations involving food to once a week in grades K-3 and once a month in grades 4-12.
“Non-food celebrations such as songs, games, book sharing and/or physical activity deemed appropriate by the classroom teacher are strongly encouraged as an alternative to food-based celebrations,” reads the proposed wellness policy. “The celebration should take place after the class has had lunch and as close to dismissal as possible. A healthy choice, such as fruit or vegetables, is strongly encouraged."
In their discussion board, BOE Vice President Jennifer Thompson noted the wellness policy dates back to 2006. “The new policy was drafted by our nurses, from a template,” she added. “Some ideas about allergies have been changed since the wellness policy was implemented.”
Review of the policy on birthday celebrations comes at the request of elementary school principals, said Superintendent Marylou McDermott, and address not just life-threatening allergies, but such issues as dietary restrictions, religious observances, and parents’ dietary concerns.
“I’d like to see this policy reflect what the community wants,” noted Trustee David Badanes. Added trustee Lori McCue: “I think we want to fully engage the community before we change the policy.”
Both policies were tabled following discussion.
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