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Board Discusses Assessment Results, Lunch Changes

On Monday night, Aug. 13 the Plainview-Old Bethpage Board of Education continued to move forward with the assistance of new Superintendent of Schools Dr. Lorna Lewis, who graciously began the meeting with a warm thank you to community members for welcoming her with open arms. The theme of this academic year will be “Moving Forward Together,” a concept inspired by the high school graduation ceremony, said Lewis.

Jill Gierasch, Assistant Superintendent for Curriculum, led the analysis of the New York State Grades 3-8 Assessments. District average grades can be found on the district website. One area of concern for parents at the meeting was the difference in grades between Mattlin Middle School and Plainview-Old Bethpage Middle School. The percentage of passing students at Mattlin exceeded the percentages at POB in almost all categories. Parents stated that they hoped to see some sort of unification of curriculum and opportunities so that the percentage of students passing the ELA and state math examinations at POB will be closer to that of Mattlin. 

A major portion of the evening was taken up by the discussion on new federal guidelines for school lunches. Ryan Ruf, assistant superintendent for business, shared the requirements with the board and community. The new guidelines require a greater emphasis on fruits and vegetables, calorie limits based on age groups, and milk as the mandatory beverage with the meal instead of the usual water bottle.

This has brought challenges and concerns to both the board and the community. Since fifth grade falls within the kindergarten-fourth grade calorie requirements under the law, fifth-graders will have a different menu than sixth- through eighth-graders. Members of the community who spoke at the meeting predicted that the fifth-grade students will want to eat as much as the older children, leading to some unhappy students.

Ruf also noted that there has always been a minimum number of calories for a school lunch, but now there is also a calorie maximum. This will limit portions, leaving children with less food than they have had for lunch in previous years.

Ruf also went over how the new guidelines apply to beverages. “Water is typically part of the lunch, but now the drink requirement will be milk,” said Ruf.

The assistant superintendent said he plans to install filtered water fountains in all cafeterias where students can fill water bottles in order to minimize the disruption from the changeover from water to milk. Board members expressed concern about the mandatory distribution of milk cartons, since many of the cartons of milk will likely go untouched. They also noted that since milk is perishable, it would be difficult to donate milk to local hunger relief organizations like Island Harvest.

Speakers during Public Participation also expressed concern about the milk issue. Some parents only feed their child organic or hormone free milk, and do not wish for their child to receive a different kind at school. Furthermore, what would students who only drink lactose-free milk or observe kosher practices do? Ruf said that to his understanding, a note from a doctor is required for children who drink lactose-free milk.

The meeting also covered summer capital updates. According to Kim Parahus, director of school facilities and operations, the high school lockers are completely removed and new lockers will arrive between Sept. 15 and 30. A method is currently in the works so that high school sports teams and physical education students will be able to change into their proper attire.

The next meeting of the board of education will take place on Monday, Sept. 10 at Mattlin Middle School.