Bye, bye state aid for lunches? School Committee exploring better, healthier menus

MARY LYDON PHOTO There's a proposal to buy locally sourced food for school lunches.
MARY LYDON PHOTO There’s a proposal to buy locally sourced food for school lunches.

What’s for lunch? The answer could change for Shelter Island students.

The school district’s Wellness Committee is suggesting the Board of Education consider turning down state aid that comes with restrictions about what can be served and where it can be purchased.

Wellness Committee members believe they can source healthy foods locally and provide a better menu for students at less cost. But to do so, the district would be foregoing state and federal funding of about $50,000.

Other schools have already taken such steps so there’s “no need to reinvent the wheel,” board member Kathleen Lynch said. It might also be possible to work out an internship program for students interested in cooking to help prepare lunch meals, board member Elizabeth Melichar suggested.

The school’s business official, Tim Laube, needs to crunch numbers while committee members look at sourcing food. It could be the wave of the future along with a redesign of the school cafeteria that board members agree hasn’t changed in years. They want to create a more inviting ambiance, perhaps with the use of round tables and other changes.

Another suggestion from the Wellness Committee is to find a way to expand a mindfulness program into the school day.

That idea came to the board last December when teachers Lynne Colligan and Laura Leever conceived a six-hour program to a select group of students teaching them to meditate and gain greater focus on their school work while reducing anxiety.

When the concept was discussed then, student Olivia Yeaman, who had participated in the pilot program, told the board she had been tense about college applications and found that the two-day program enabled her to let go of stress.

Ms. Colligan told the board she thought mindfulness could be worked into the curriculum by shaving off about a minute from each day’s classes to create a 15-minute block each day for students to meditate and learn to relax.

Other new ideas presented is a poetry program two teachers have brought to elementary school students. Literacy teacher Jessica Nardi and special education teacher Jennifer Gulluscio have engaged elementary school students in celebrating National Poetry Month, involving the youngsters in reading and writing poetry. They hope to engage the students in writing sensory poetry dealing with sights, smells, touch and feel of spring and other seasons.

Board members suggested they might want to expand the program to students at all levels.

In other actions the Board of Education:
• Approved allowing members of the Shelter Island Faculty Association (SIFA) to contribute sick days to teacher Sharon Gibbs who has been battling cancer. SIFA President Brian Becker expressed his thanks to the board for allowing the transfer of days to cover Ms. Gibbs extended absences during the year.
• Appointed Edward Mariatt as a substitute teacher and Thomas Smith as a substitute retroactively to April 3. Both would work at a pay of $110 per day.
• Amended a previous approval for a medical leave to aide Lora Hamblet who was granted a leave from March 6 through March 17. The amendment extended the leave to March 28.