PITTSFIELD -- An expanded wellness policy for Pittsfield schools puts into writing the comprehensive approach to healthy lifestyles that has been a priority here for nearly a decade.
The six-page policy, approved last month by the School Committee, formalizes a standing advisory group of parents, students, school officials and fitness, health and nutrition professionals. It also adds detail concerning goals and program implementation and review processes and refers to relevant state and federal standards and guidelines.
Conte Community School Principal Linda Avalle, a former co-chairwoman of the system's wellness committee and a curriculum coordinator, said the work of many volunteers and staff members since 2004 culminated in the newly adopted policy.
"We have been implementing policy all along," Avalle said, and the current version "incorporates all the state and federal guidelines and standards for nutrition and physical education."
It was assembled and written over the past two years, she said, with the aim of creating a comprehensive document -- which also will be reviewed periodically for revisions or updates.
"We had a great deal of cooperation," Avalle said of staff members.
In the wider world, Pittsfield "has really been ahead of the curve, having policies and a robust committee," Avalle said. She said that at meetings with educators from other areas and states, the efforts in local schools were considered advanced.
Part of the process was to conduct a needs assessment of Pittsfield schools in 2008 and a survey in 2012. With school system and grant funding, meals, nutrition, physical education and health programs were implemented with the help of the wellness group.
The School Wellness Advisory Committee has members appointed by the superintendent and advises that office on related issues. The makeup of the standing committee, which will meet at least four times annually, is to include school health professionals, physical education teachers, food program representatives, parents, students, School Committee representation, members from community organizations serving youth, and school administrators.
During the school year, the committee is charged with establishing and monitoring implementation of programs; evaluating progress toward the policy's general goals; reviewing nutrition and physical education policies and evidence of the impact on student health; informing the public and policies and implementation; serving as a resource to related programs; and preparing an annual report to the superintendent and the School Committee.
Other points covered:
n Foods and beverages sold or served at school will meet or exceed federal and state school nutrition guidelines.
n Each school will provide age-appropriate nutrition and physical education to promote good lifelong nutrition and physical activity.
n Nutrition shall be integrated into the school curriculum and nutrition education be provided to parents.
n Health fairs, informational booths and other activities will promote wellness within the community.
n School personnel are "to serve as role models and advocates for health and wellness."
n Food safety training will address the risk of food-borne illnesses and food allergies and other issues.
n Schools must limit in-class celebrations that involve food to no more than one class per month, and foods or beverages provided should meet federal and state meals guidelines and allergy recommendations.
n Employees and volunteers "shall not use foods or beverages as rewards in the classroom ... nor shall they withhold food or beverages ... as punishment."
n Waivers for phys ed classes are prohibited except for medical exemptions.
n Students must spend at least 80 percent of phys ed classes on moderate to vigorous physical activity.
The policy will be posted on the Pittsfield Public Schools website.