School Board considers adding initiatives to strategic plan

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By Tom Wilmoth

    District 6 School Board member Kelly Harmony had one question about a proposed wellness program for students in Bedford County Public Schools: Will this lead the school system to begin patrolling lunch boxes in the cafeteria?
    The answer: That’s yet to be determined.
    During a work session last Thursday, members of the School Board discussed proposed changes to the school system’s strategic plan. One of the three proposed changes includes implementing a comprehensive student wellness program.
    That suggestion came up through discussions with a school health advisory group by administrative staff.
    The ultimate goal of that strategy, which could include a number of initiatives, is to promote better health for students which could improve their learning as well.
    Individual schools already promote numerous initiatives for wellness—before and after-school programs, running and walking clubs and numerous health screenings—but including it in the strategic plan would make it a district-level priority, School Superintendent Dr. Douglas Schuch told board members.
    Harmony said she has been concerned about stories from other states where students have had their lunches scrutinized by school officials.
    “We’re already restricting behaviors to some extent,” Dr. Schuch noted.
    He said some parents have already questioned new federal guidelines this year requiring healthier school lunches because their children aren’t eating some of the new items that are on the menu. School officials also noted that steps are being taken in some schools to monitor what can be brought in for class birthday parties, or how often such parties can be held.
    Cupcakes appear to be on the “no-provide” list, or at least fewer sweets; fruits and vegetables are being encouraged, instead.
    Sara Staton, director of special services for BCPS, said some schools are already providing snack list options for school parties or limiting the number of parties a class can have in a month. “We’re trying to pay more attention now (to the food being brought in),” she said, noting it was both a wellness and a health issue.
     In addition to student wellness, a second suggested priority to be added to the strategic plan includes employee wellness.
    According to Tim Parker, the school system’s director of human resources, if you have employees who are living healthier lifestyles it will ultimately result in fewer days lost to sickness. And, it could also help with insurance costs, he said.
    Dr. Schuch noted that some county schools have already had efforts for employee wellness such as walking and weight-loss challenges, but including it in the strategic plan would move it to a district-wide initiative.
    A third proposed addition to the strategic plans goals would be to improve individual student behavior and to promote teamwork. At the suggestion of the board, staff will come up with wording making those separate proposals, in an effort to come up with measurable goals for each.
    The school system’s strategic plan was originally adopted in January 2011; the board will vote at a later meeting on the proposed updates to the document. The mission statement for the strategic plan states its goal is “to prepare our students to be productive and responsible citizens in our community and the world.”
    Prior to discussion on the plan with the entire board, several new board members participated in a work session in which administration officials discussed the overall scope of the plan.