It's Happening: School Party Planners Rejoice; the Cupcake has Made a Comeback
Having four children pass through the school system, including six years each at Simpson Elementary School, I can only imagine how many home-baked cupcakes and cookies I, along with other homeroom moms, carried into the school for parties. We’re talking 24 school years of Halloween, Christmas, Valentines and springtime celebrations. It was always a fun – yet oftentimes chaotic occasion – as the kids were given permission to get wound up a little bit, indulge in their favorite sweet treats, play games and sometimes create a holiday craft. It was a little bit of work, but so worth the effort and I love looking back on photos which captured those moments.
In the early years when my older kids attended elementary school back in the late ‘80s and ‘90s, we were even allowed to bring younger siblings, who were delighted to go to “big school” and hang out with older brothers and sisters for an hour or so. And everyone who had signed up to be a homeroom parent were permitted to go to all parties and I likewise have good memories of interacting with other moms, comparing notes and doing a little bit of socializing.
But times changed. Schools adopted stricter admittance restrictions and to coincide with that, the number of parents were limited and siblings were no longer permitted to attend the parties. And then came the big one: No sweet treats were allowed in schools. I believe that happened back in 2012 in an effort to reinforce the importance of healthy foods and help children form good eating habits. And though intentions may have been good, it became challenging to say the least for homeroom parents to create a party atmosphere when the spread featured raw vegetables and fruits.
On a state level, that ban has been lifted and the WVDE Office of Child Nutrition is in the process of reviewing and revising State Board Policy 4321.1 – Standards for School Nutrition and that such policy will be ready for review following the May WVBE meeting.
Until the time that the policy revisions are made, county superintendents have the discretion to work with staff to determine their own guidelines – effective immediately.
Assistant Superintendent of Harrison County Schools Wendy Imperial said the BOE is in the process of creating its own policy.
Harrison County Child Nutrition Director David Seay is working on a guidance document using the USDA Smart Snack Guidelines and it will include not only holiday and other school celebrations, but also breakfast and lunch programs and snacks available for purchase at the schools.
I gave Mr. Seay a call and he is being very diligent about his responsibilities, considering health and nutrition, but also the harmlessness of an occasional splurge. His recommendations will likely be ready for review and vote by the county BOE in a month or so.
In the meantime, parents have been given some leeway with regard to homeroom party celebrations. The bottom line is cupcakes and cookies are allowed, but incorporate some other foods – as well as some common sense – too, referring to the USDA Smart Snack Guidelines when planning the party menu.
With regard to day-to-day treats for incentive purposes, the same logic goes. Teachers can offer pizza parties, for example, as an incentive, but Seay said he is against dangling a candy bar in front of a student as a reward for acing a test.
“A candy bar or any food as a reward is a bad idea, but incentives for schools is a good idea,” said Seay, adding that teachers and parents must be cognizant of any food allergies or other dietary restrictions.
Julie Perine can be reached at 304-848-7200, ext. 2, at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow @JuliePerine on Twitter.
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