MABTON- Above the sounds of audience chatter, the Mabton School board approved its new state-mandated nutrition and physical fitness policy.
As Hispanic interpreters conveyed the details of the new policy to those in the audience, Mabton school patron Jose Meza praised the board for taking steps to ensure students will receive good food at school.
"I'm glad we were able to work together to make sure our children have good food and drinks at the schools," Meza said.
The school district administration and food services department personnel worked with school patrons for the past year to redesign the school's nutritional program. The group's goal was to ensure that well-balanced and USDA-approved menus are served to Mabton school children. The consortium met regularly last year and will continue to meet to monitor menus, according to district officials.
"I know this (policy) means less money for the school, but we are dealing with ensuring the health of the children," Meza said.
"I don't allow junk in my house and I'm glad the school board won't allow it at school," he added.
As part of the new policy, the district has eliminated candy and soda beverage vending machines at the elementary level and is restricting the sale of vending machine items at the middle and high school levels.
According to Mabton Jr.-Sr. High School Principal Keith Morris, the vending machines have been retrofitted with juice drinks and non-candy snacks. Meanwhile, the pop machines will be turned off during the school day, Morris added.
Morris estimated the measure will cost the school's ASB fund in the neighborhood of $3,000 in revenues.
"But the loss of funds is not our primary concern," said Mabton School District Superintendent Sandra Pasiero-Davis.
"The nutritional health of our students is," she said.
As an added component of the district's new policy is parent education, which will be made available regarding the newly approved nutritional guidelines.
The new district policy also includes the district's renewed emphasis on the physical fitness of its students.
The district is working to implement a comprehensive health and fitness curriculum, which will be consistent with the state learning requirements. The Mabton policy now calls for all students in grades 1-8 to have an average of 100 instructional minutes per week of physical education.
As part of the elementary and middle school fitness programs, students will be offered unstructured, but supervised activities.
High school students will be required to earn two credits of health and fitness, including classroom and gym time.
The new policy goes into effect with the start of the 2005-06 school year, which opened today (Tuesday).