BOE discusses recess, lunch costs
NORTH CANAAN — Helping students get and stay healthy has become an integral part of school life.The North Canaan Board of Education took a close look at two aspects at its Nov. 17 meeting: breakfast and recess. A breakfast program that could include a large number of students at North Canaan Elementary School (NCES) — and be profitable — is getting serious consideration. The elimination of recess for seventh- and eighth-graders may be reversed, based on negative reaction from students, teachers and parents.Former NCES parent Glenn Rogers spoke during the public comment portion of the meeting, saying he was speaking for a number of parents who had approached him. He also researched state Board of Education policies, and said that while references to recess were mostly suggestions, it was upheld as a “best practice.”NCES Principal Rosemary Keilty explained schedule changes had been made to make time for the state Department of Education’s mandated Scientific Research-Based Intervention (SRBI), aimed at more closely meeting individual student academic needs. At NCES, it has also become an opportunity for enrichment education.Last year, weekly double periods for science and math were eliminated. This year, recess was eliminated instead.The flexible period worked into the school day last year seemed to make an academic difference for students. The schedule rotation was changed so that they now have two gym classes every five days, instead of six. Board members launched into a discussion, raising various points: exercise goes along with the healthy eating promoted by the school; students were very upset about the change; teachers have noticed students are more fidgety; physical education class does not make up for recreation time. On the other hand, it was noted the change is a way to help students transition into high school; and that much of the bullying at school happens on the playground.The matter will be considered by a re-established wellness committee, which will also scrutinize the breakfast proposal.Geoffrey Ramsey, a consultant with School Food Marketing, is already working with the kitchen staff on ways to increase lunch sales and better promote healthy choices. There is grant funding available to offset costs, and there are government incentives. A breakfast program could actually make money. “You could get $1.51 reimbursement on each breakfast, if the majority of students eat it,” Ramsey said. “There is an average 85 cents food cost on breakfast.”He also suggested the lunch price be raised. It has been slowly bumped up, a nickel at a time. The goal: getting the program out of the red while serving healthier food.“It’s hard to improve the quality of the food when you don’t have the money to buy it,” Ramsey said. “The families that need help paying for it will get it.”He suggested raising the $2.30 lunch price to $2.50 next year.The kitchen staff is currently selling easily prepared breakfast foods, such as muffins and bagels, to students who arrive early and wait in the cafeteria for the school day to start. A comprehensive program would not mean adding a breakfast period to the day. Students would pick up bagged meals in the lobby and eat during homeroom period.