The School Board is in the process of updating its policy manual to keep in line with new legislation.

Policy changes were discussed in a recent workshop and the Board voted to approve advertising revisions at the Jan. 24 meeting. Other policies will be examined and a final vote from the Board will finalize the changes at the next meeting.

Assistant Superintendent of Administrative Services Bill Yanossy has been working hard on additions and revisions to the policy manual, many of which will affect students.

One proposed addition affecting students is to establish a wellness program which calls for nutrition education, physical activity and other school-based activities to promote wellness for students and employees. Also involved would be nutritional guidelines for foods provided at each school and the designation of a wellness coordinator.

School Food Service Coordinator Rhonda Lepper and School Health Services Coordinator Margaret Wooley have established a committee to collect data and set the new policy for the state to review before it goes to the Board.

"We are looking at providing food choices high in nutritional value yet attractive to students," Lepper said.

The new policy will go into affect in the upcoming school year.

Another new policy proposed is to provide a safe environment for students by adding a bullying, threats and intimidation policy for students who participate in such acts to be disciplined in accordance with the Code of Student Conduct and Florida Statutes.

Yanossy said last year several cases regarding acts of bullying, threats and intimidation occurred in Florida schools and a need arose to address the issue. Schools already have guidelines for bullying, threats and intimidation but the new policy will broaden the language in what constitutes these acts to provide more protection for students, he said.

"These acts can even be criminal offenses," he said.

Regulation of cell phone use was proposed which says students must turn off phones during school hours, only making emergency calls from the school office. Violating the policy will result in confiscation of phones and returning them to parents.

Yanossy said the new policy allows for students to carry phones during school but keep them turned off, and parents should make calls to students through the school office.

Regarding cell phone use on school buses, students cannot use cell phones on buses coming to and from school. However, for field trips or school functions, such as sporting events, the principal or coach will decide whether a student may call home to notify parents about the time he/she will arrive home, Yanossy said.

School Board Policy Manuals are updated twice a year in accordance with North East Florida Educational Consortium (NEFEC) guidelines which are determined by legislation. An advisory group keeps tract of legislative changes and devises a policy that meets the needs of all Florida counties. The policies are then presented to each school board to be adapted for each district.

Yanossy said if a policy is in place and legislation changes, NEFEC revises the policy by adding new language or making required changes. If a need for a new policy arises and one doesn't exist or isn't addressed by legislation, school districts can request NEFEC adopt a policy for the issue, he said.

There will be a public hearing at Branford Elementary School at 5:50 p.m. Feb. 28 for the public to express concerns regarding the new policies. The policies will be voted on by the Board at the 6 p.m. meeting that evening at Branford.

Vanessa Fultz may be reached by calling 1-386-362-1734 ext. 130 or by emailing vanessa.fultz@gaflnews.com.

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