Parents who want to send a snack to school for their child's birthday now have a resource to make sure the food is safe for all students.
Mars Area School District has approved a snack list for kindergarten through 12th grade, said Anna Saker, director of pupil services, who designed the list with help from school nurses, parent-teacher organizations and parents of children with food allergies.
"We are trying to meet the needs of all the students and all the nutritional guidelines," she told school board members Tuesday night.
The list is designed to keep children with allergies safe and also includes sugarless options if there is a diabetic child in the classroom, Mrs. Saker said.
"We will accept recommendations if people have them, but everything has to be made on a nut-free, oil-free line," she said. "These are not mandatory choices on the list, but you have to check with the nurse to make sure they can go into that classroom.
"You always have to check with the nurse. I can't say that enough," she said.
In other business, Lesley Kennedy, one of two guidance counselors furloughed last year, is being brought back, raising the number of counselors to six.
Cutting the counselors, one of several moves made last year to balance the budget without a tax increase, was criticized by parents. The move left five counselors in the district's five schools, with some counselors splitting their time between schools.
Also, superintendent William Pettigrew told board members that he wants the board to consider changing the start time at the elementary school to give teachers a common planning time.
Other budget cuts from last year have classroom teachers taking over physical education and/or art, which took their planning period away. During bargaining with Mars Area Education Association, the union asked if the teachers could have a common planning time, Mr. Pettigrew said.
He originally suggested changing the arrival time from 8:30 to 9 a.m. but is now suggesting that the time be moved to 8:45 a.m. If the teachers start at 8:15 a.m., they will have a half-hour to plan. Dropoff can begin at 8:48 a.m., he said. Dismissal time will remain the same.
"We know we have enough hours. We know we will not be losing any instruction time," he said.
School board President J. Dayle Ferguson the district has had a "phenomenal response" to a community survey asking for the preferred characteristics and experiences in the next superintendent.
"The staff weighed in at a high rate," she said. "We really value your input." Mr. Pettigrew is retiring in December.
The survey is on the district's website, and copies are available at each school, in the administration building and in the Mars Public Library. Surveys will be accepted through Feb. 15.
Sandy Trozzo, freelance writer: firstname.lastname@example.org.