2005-11-24 / Front Page

Exercise, diet are key to healthy students, panel says

By Sam Bari

At the Nov. 17 School Committee meeting, the Health and Wellness Subcommittee presented an interim report that focused on the promotion of physical activity and healthy diets for students.

Prepared by school nurse Renie Sullivan and health and physical education teacher Eric J. Bush, the document outlines a comprehensive program designed to improve the overall health and physical fitness of the student body in both the elementary and middle schools.

The committee, which is cochaired by Sullivan and school committee member Jim Filkins, is newly mandated by the state. The committee is responsible for recommending goals to be incorporated into the schools’ strategic plan by May 1.

The state is also requiring the School Committee to draft a health and wellness policy by the end of June 2006 that is to be enacted by November of that year. The health and wellness committee reported that it has made healthy changes to the school lunch menus and is also discussing possible changes to the guidelines for food consumed in classrooms. The committee report recommended an additional 30 minutes of daily physical activity for all students and the expansion of the afterand before-school physical activities that are currently offered by the school system.

Filkins emphasized that the program is about raising awareness and encouraging a lifestyle that is going to allow the students to live a long and healthy life. The program is not intended to set goal-oriented performance or weight standards or to create a competitive atmosphere, he added.

In old business, School Superintendent Katherine Sipala concurred with Town Solicitor Lauriston Parks specifying that the school had the power and duty “to provide for the location, care, control, and management of school facilities and equipment.” The operation and management of the recreational fields, which are not considered to be a “school facility,” falls under the jurisdiction of the Department of Parks and Recreation.

The School Committee approved a letter to the town administrator providing guidelines for recreation department oversight of gym use by recreation program participants and outside groups. The school administration will also notify the town that the school has the equipment for a previously planned Fitness Trail and will also make a copy available of the school’s comprehensive plan for the property adjoining the two schools.

In her superintendent’s report, Sipala recognized Maureen McGuirl and eighth-grade Project Citizen students, whose contributions to the community are featured in the Holt, Rinehart and Winston book titled “Civics in Practice.” Sipala also commended the work of Jim Kaczynski, who showcased the work of his students in a presentation called “Green Awareness: Connecting Students with Their Community,” at the 2005 National Conference on Urban Ecosystems in Charlotte, N.C.

The superintendent also presented the School Committee with the latest enrollment figures and reported that Jamestown and Little Compton will be sharing the services of a student assistance counselor, Stephanie Wordell, MSW, LCSW. Wordell’s work in the Jamestown schools will be funded this year by grants from the Jamestown Substance Abuse Prevention Task Force and the Rhode Island Foundation as part of the teen center grant.

When discussing the enrollment figures, Sipala made a point to mention that the small class sizes of 12 to13 students, as quoted by John Pini, a Jamestown resident and recently retired superintendent of the Chariho school district, at the last School Committee workshop, implied that small classes were the rule and not the exception. Just the opposite is true, she said. Most classes in the Jamestown schools are comprised of 18 to 20 students or more, which is an acceptable, normal class size, she added.

Sipala brought the committee up to date on the student council’s desire to change or update the school’s mascot, the Warrior. The students wrote to Sachem Matthew Thomas of the Narragansett Indian tribe to ask whether the tribe considered the Warrior mascot to be objectionable or offensive.

Tribal Medicine Man John Brown responded to the students’ question, saying that the tribe supported continued use of the name “Warrior” but did not want the mascot to be depicted as an Indian. He suggested that the students incorporate one of the tribe’s traditional symbols — a raven or a wolf — as their mascot.

The Melrose School Improvement Team discussed the possible impact on Melrose Avenue School of the ongoing reorganization and restructuring discussions. School Committee liaison Jim Filkins stressed that the School Committee is looking at all options and has not yet made any decisions. He encouraged the SIT members to attend the School Committee work sessions devoted to this topic.

The Lawn Avenue SIT began its meeting with a remembrance of former member Jane Sprague. They also reviewed the final version of the school action plan for Lawn Avenue School, discussed actions taken as a result of last year’s end-of-the-school-year parent survey, and worked on a position statement to be presented at the School Committee’s Dec. 1 work session.

The Special Education Local Advisory Commission commended members for the level of participation at the School Committee’s Nov. 6 work session on reorganization and restructuring. The group also discussed possible topic requests for Education Awareness Day speaker Dr. Edward Hallowell, plans to revise and update the SELAC Web site, the SELAC by-laws to be voted upon at the next meeting, and the impact of proposed changes to the criteria for Katie Beckett’s eligibility.

The head of the special education department at North Kingstown High School will present the changes to Jamestown parents in January. The two previous RI Parenting Workshops have been cancelled due to low registration numbers. This prompted SELAC to examine how these workshops could be better publicized in the school newspaper, The Warrior.

The Facilities Committee reviewed the guidelines for recreation department use of the gym and toured Lawn Avenue School to view the improvements. The committee inspected the trial windows installed and will consider recommending window replacement throughout the building.

School Committee nember William “Bucky” Brennan reported that the North Kingston School Committee discussed fire safety and other renovations needed at Wickford Middle School. If the town approves a bond for the work, there will be an eventual need to house some students in trailers while renovations are being completed.

Brennan proposed that North Kingstown consider sending displaced students to Lawn Avenue School in a “tuition trade” for Jamestown’s high school students. Brennan will offer to make a PowerPoint presentation on Lawn School for the NK school committee. He also reported that North Kingston High School has received “high performance and improvement” status and that the high school had the highest scores in the state in English language arts.

School Committee Chairwoman Catherine Kaiser reported that the Southern Rhode Island Collaborative Nov. 7 Key Works meeting focused on a feasibility study of shared services. Current areas of study include energy, healthcare, supplies, purchase of private school textbooks, food services, transportation, insurance, and facilities maintenance.

Filkins reported on the statewide meeting he attended with Renie Sullivan for the Health and Wellness Committee.

In her legislation report, Kaiser said that her discussions with Congressman Patrick Kennedy’s office, the National Association of Impacted Schools, and the U.S. Department of Education have pointed to the difficulty and impracticality of amending the federal law governing impact aid.

The committee approved the appointment of Maureen McGuirl as grade 8 liaison for the high school, Ana Irwin as crossing guard, and Albert Bears and Terri Page as bus monitors.

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