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Letter: Wellness Committee Plan to Focus on Health Issues at D-S Schools

The following is a letter to the editor from Marie Kelfer, who has been charged by D-S Public Schools Superintendent Valerie Spriggs to develop articles that focus on the positive aspects of the school system.

Corporations have made employee health and wellness a priority because it directly affects the bottom line. Government has mandated the same for public schools because health and wellness makes students successful in school and beyond. Dover-Sherborn Schools Wellness Policy brings together a dozen important principles under one umbrella and gives students the tools they need for a healthy lifestyle.

As part of the 2004 Child Nutrition Act, the US government acknowledged the important role of schools in lifestyle behaviors, requiring them to promote wellness and combat growing rates of obesity and disease. In response, the Dover-Sherborn schools implemented a number of cafeteria changes to improve the nutritional value of school lunches.

Last year, First Lady Michelle Obama spearheaded the update of the 2004 mandate to include nutrition promotion and increased physical activity in schools. The Dover-Sherborn Schools have now expanded their focus to all wellness issues, supporting a critical component of school effectiveness.

School Superintendent Valerie Spriggs created the Wellness Committee in 2011 with system-wide representation made up of administration, faculty, athletic staff, nurses, community leaders and parents.

The committee was charged with the creation and implementation of a system-wide Wellness Policy and Plan. Parent member Leslie Barnett says that “Addressing wellness is a critical component of any institution wishing to enable its members, whether students or employees, to perform at their best.”

The Wellness Committee began by looking at the schools’ Mission Statement to determine the various ways that health and wellness fulfill that mission and how the schools can support that mission through measureable goals in health and wellness. As a result, the Committee identified twelve important areas of focus:

  • Nutrition Services and Food Policies
  • Physical, Health and Social Skills Education
  • Curriculum Integration of Wellness
  • Physical Activity and Stress Reduction
  • Substance Abuse and Bullying Prevention
  • Health Services
  • Guidance, Counseling and Adjustment Services
  • Athletic Programs
  • Extracurricular and Student Spirit Building Programs
  • Employee Wellness
  • School Environment and Sustainability
  • Family and Community Involvement, Education and Support

Each of these areas is addressed in a Wellness Plan that the committee is currently developing and contains specific, measureable actions that can be taken to implement the focused changes.

The committee will bring its plan to the school committees for their approval, and are encouraged and enthused at having one committee setting at which a number of wellness initiatives taking place throughout the school system can be explored and discussed.

Committee member and middle school nurse Bethany Walker cites the typical complaints of students she sees daily, including stress, headaches, stomachaches, shortness of breath during exercise and other chronic illnesses.

As an advocate for a holistic approach to wellness, she said, “As a school nurse, I am focused on the whole person and students’ optimal well-being and not just their academic success. To me, they go hand-and-hand.”

Parent Committee member Mimi Krier believes the Wellness Committee has the potential to do great things for both parents and youth.

“As the representative from SPAN-DS (Substance Prevention Awareness Network-Dover Sherborn), I was excited to join the Wellness Committee because I believe it combines our focus on substance abuse awareness and prevention with other critical elements such as improving the physical and emotional needs of our children,” she said.

The Wellness Committee has the people, tools and approach to make a real difference in our schools by teaching students the value of a healthy lifestyle as part of their education and to further the goal of the DS Schools to educate and care for the "whole child".

Stay tuned for more information about the Wellness Committee.

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