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District Accents Health and Safety

By Ann Needle

Health and safety were in the spotlight at last night’s Nashoba School Committee meeting. The Committee reviewed plans for some new safety-related policies, and got a closer look at some changes that should leave students better nourished.

Co-Chair Nancy Federspiel noted that the Policy Subcommittee has been focused on the meaning of a “substantial detrimental effect.” At the last School Committee meeting, Nashoba Regional High School Principal Dr. Parry Graham explained that state law charges him with deciding whether students are causing a substantial detrimental effect on the rest of the school, and therefore whether they can continue to come to classes.

At the time, Graham was responding to parents protesting the presence at the high school of what is reported to be three students (two from Stow) charged last summer with offenses including armed robbery and assault.

“I have never seen such a crowd at a policy meeting,” Federspiel wryly observed of last week’s subcommittee meeting. However, she stressed that the meeting gave parents another forum to present their thoughts on the situations. “At the end of the meeting, we thought maybe we can help define what substantial detrimental effect means,” Federspiel noted.

However, in the meantime, Federspeil said Superintendent Michael Wood (who was not at last night’s meeting) “found out from legal counsel that perhaps we cannot do that.” The Policy Subcommittee will have an extra meeting next week to focus on the topic, and Federspiel invited any interested district residents to attend. Go to for more information.

In a long-awaited move designed to protect the school community online, the School Committee unanimously approved its final draft of the Online Communication Policy. The policy offers guidelines on online and electronic protocol for communication between staff, students, and their families. What is especially useful is the policy’s definition of when and how to report a message that may be considered threatening, and can be used as legal evidence, Federspiel pointed out.

The Committee also heard from Director of Health & Wellness Pat Trahman about the new Medical Emergency Response Plan. Traham noted that the governor signed an emergency response bill into law in May, mandating all Massachusetts schools have an emergency response plan in place by last month. All plans focus on key elements that include ready access to instructions for directing medical personnel through a particular school, and first aid training for staff.

“It was a lot of things that needed to be tweaked and tightened, but were already in place,” said Trahman, such as the fact that Nashoba staff already is CPR-trained. “So it was just a matter of writing about how we do it.” Though Nashoba met the state deadline, she said school principals and their emergency teams are reviewing the plan in case they want to amend the information.

New on the Hunger Front
District parents may have noticed mumblings among students over the school lunches (or, some may quip, lack thereof.)  Director of Food Services Tom Houle laid out the reasons why Nashoba students may be seeing a twist in the lunch line-up this year.

Houle outlined how the new federal school meal standards, put into effect in September,  have meant healthier foods served in Nahoba’s cafeterias. While Houle said district meals always have been healthy, there now must be more fruits, vegetables, and proteins in a standard lunch. School meals cannot get more than 35% of their calories from sugar and must be free of saturated fat, he said.

What is starkly new is that the standards mandate portion sizes for different grades, while the old standards offered only minimum serving guidelines, Houle explained. “For example, if we have a 2-oz. burger one day, we may need to have a meat-free day that week.”

Houle said that students are noticing the smaller portions on some foods, and still throwing away many of the unwanted items. The result has been a decrease in overall sales, he reported.

For those determined to eat something else, Houle announced that new vending machines are on their way to the schools. But he stressed that these also will emphasize healthier choices, including yogurt cups, sandwiches, and cut fruit. But, Houle added that some sort of snack foods, such as chips, will also be offered in the machines.

Elsewhere in the district, the high school is getting ready to celebrate an official opening of its new track and main field, during half-time of the Nashoba/Hudson football game on Friday, November 2. According to Assistant Superintendent George King, the tennis courts are just being completed. He added that the concession stand and bathrooms should be built in the spring.