Monday, December 10, 2007

fort zumwalt school district

Francis Howell school officials would like to make a decision sometime this spring on how to upgrade Howell High, the oldest high school in the district.

"We still have a lot of work ahead of us," Superintendent Renée Schuster said. "We need to build a school for the community and designed by the community."

Three different options for Howell High range from a mix of additions and renovations to an entirely new school.

During the next few months, parents, administrators and the community will continue to discuss the options at meetings at each school in the district, Schuster said. Advertisement

A new school could cost as much as $110 million depending on the size of the buildings, said Kevin Supple, the district's chief financial officer. The option with mostly new construction except for a gym and auditorium could cost as much as $106 million, he said. The plan of a mix of additions and improvements to old buildings was estimated at $48.7 million.

About 40 percent of the respondents in a 2006 district survey said that project cost would be an essential factor in the decision on how to upgrade Howell High. The rest of the people who took the survey were nearly split on whether to build a new school or renovate some buildings and replace others.

The most recent high school to be built in St. Charles County was Fort Zumwalt East, that district's fourth high school. The school opened in August and cost about $36.5 million.

Several factors account for the difference in the cost of East High School and estimates for a new Howell High, including the impending Highway 40 closure and high oil prices, which will both drive up construction costs, Schuster said.

Fort Zumwalt East is designed for 1,300 to 1,500 students, while Howell High needs room for 2,000 to 2,200. Also, Fort Zumwalt East was built on flat property with no existing school to tear down. At Howell High, the sprawling campus near the intersection of Highways 94 and 40 would require additional work and the old school would need to be demolished.

After the School Board has voted on how to upgrade Howell High, leaders will then focus on a November bond issue to pay for the project. The options include a no tax increase bond issue in which taxes wouldn't go up but it would take longer to pay off the debt.

About 1,850 students attend Howell High. Some parts of the building are about 50 years old. The school as it exists today progressed in several phases, and the result is a sprawling campus that includes multiple buildings and entryways, which make security an issue. The school also has smaller classrooms and fewer performance and practice fields than the district's other two high schools.

O'FALLON, MO. ― Helen Warnecke treated her fellow third-graders to a special snack for her 9th birthday, but instead of ripping into packaged cookies and cupcakes, the class spooned up some orange sherbet, trans fat-free and full of vitamin C.

"Everyone liked it," said Helen, who attends Emge Elementary School in O'Fallon, Mo.

The sherbet and other healthy treats such as sliced apples and low-fat caramel, Italian Ice, string cheese and crackers are available for student birthdays as part of a new program this year at some Fort Zumwalt elementary schools. Parents can order and purchase healthy birthday treats for their child's class. The treats are prepared in the cafeteria and delivered to the classroom on their special day.

The program began at two schools earlier this year, but it is so popular with principals and parents it likely will expand to all 15 of the district's elementary schools by the end of the year, said Paul Becker, director of student nutrition services. Advertisement

"You know everybody in the class is getting something healthy that won't rot their teeth," he said.

Fort Zumwalt is at least the second district in the area to try such a program. The Rockwood School District began its healthy birthday treat program last spring in five elementary schools. The program expanded to 17 elementary schools when school began this year.

The Missouri School Boards' Association was not aware of other similar programs within its member districts, although some have policies with lists of recommended treats for birthday celebrations.

A survey of 1,200 school districts nationwide found that 89 percent had some type of policy regulating treats for birthdays or other celebrations, but only 30 percent had started using it in classrooms as of May, according to the School Nutrition Association's recent report, "From Cupcakes to Carrots: Local Wellness Policies One Year Later."

Childhood obesity concerns have led to federal mandates that require schools to strengthen their nutritional guidelines. Nearly 19 percent of children ages 6 to 11 are overweight compared to 6.5 percent in 1980, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says. Schools had to develop wellness policies by the 2006-2007 school year.

After studying and making changes to cafeteria menus and vending machines, Becker thought about all of the sugary treats students were hauling in for birthday parties and other celebrations. Although it has been several years since the schools have allowed parents to bring in homemade cupcakes or other baked goods from home, plenty of store-bought cookies and cupcakes were still making their way into classrooms.

"We know if it's healthy for the kids and we can change it, let's do it now," Becker said. "We're constantly working on things and how to encourage healthy choices."

Fort Zumwalt parents are buzzing about the convenience of the program, not to mention the health advantages.

For example, a serving of the orange sherbet has 120 calories, 1.5 grams of fat and 25 grams of sugar. In comparison, a serving of Little Debbie packaged Zebra Cakes has about 320 calories, 15 grams of fat and more than 30 grams of sugar.

Prices for the treats in the program range from 40 to 75 cents per child.

The popularity of the program seems to stem from the kids themselves. One child has the sherbet for their birthday and then others want it as well, said Colleen Dalton, who teaches third grade at Emge Elementary.

With three kids and a full work schedule, Helen's mom, Julie Warnecke, appreciated that the Fort Zumwalt program put nutritious food in her daughter's classroom and at the same time, gave Mom one less errand to run.

"It was easy and healthy. I just had to send a check in," Warnecke said. "I'm a healthy eater myself, and I really try to teach my kids to eat healthy. Everything you see at the store is sugar bombs."

And all of that sugar seems to have an effect on the student's ability to concentrate, Dalton said.

"With the healthier options, their ability to focus is still there," she said. "When


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