Food service director gives presentation to school board

The students at Morris Area Schools are treated to many special days and special meals during the school year. Jeanine Bowman, Morris Area Food Service Director, gave the Morris Area school board a presentation at their meeting on July 24. She wanted to share with the school board and the public some of the fun things the food service department does with the kids every year.

Early in the school year, usually in October, there are two special events. The first is National School Lunch Week and the second is the Great Lakes Apple Crunch. During National School Lunch Week, Bowman said they try to serve some of the student’s favorite foods. In the elementary that is hot dogs and in the high school that is Big Daddy pizza.

The Great Lakes Apple Crunch encourages students to eat a fresh apple everyday and there is some educational materials for students that explains why. She said that they get the apples from Country Blossom Farms near Alexandria. When asked about the variety she said that the students do not like the Red Delicious variety so she has some more locally grown types she prefers.

In March there is National School Breakfast Week when breakfast items are served for lunch. March is also National Nutrition Month and students are asked to invite their parents for lunch. This usually results in just a handful of parents in the high school level but over 400 in the elementary grades.

May is school lunch hero day and Cinco de Mayo day to be celebrated with special foods. The Pork Producers and Beef Producers each take a day in the months of April and May to serve the students and also promote fresh foods from the farm.

Bowman told the board members that last year the district received a Farm to School Grant totaling $36,000. She will be using this to purchase fresh fruit, vegetables and dairy items. She is hoping to add a few new things to the menu this year including smoked brisket and Fresha carrots. They are also planning to celebrate Native American Month with some Native American foods. 

Board members asked if the free lunch to all students will affect the meals. She said that the only thing it might affect is how many students to plan for for the meals. Basically, the menu planning and other things will be the same. She added that they are still in need of a few staff members so she is hoping to fill the positions before school starts.

Superintendent Shane Monson then gave the board members an overview of some of the legislative changes and how these will affect the district. One requirement is to hire a Media Center specialist in the library. However, Morris Area already has a media specialist on staff so nothing will need to be done with this. There is $40,000 allocated for this and other library needs so this can fund the staffing and library furniture. 

There will be a change in how schools handle previously approved referendums. Now if a referendum expires, the board can renew it without going back to the voters as long as there is no change to the referendum funds.

Paraprofessionals will now be required to take a minimum of 8 hours of professional development with 6 of those hours completed before the first instructional day or within 30 days of hiring. 

The state made some changes to the student discipline policy however, when reviewing what the district currently had in place, there were no differences. One of the changes is to limit the use of recess detention and requires parent notification within 24 hours. Students can also not be held back from meal time. 

There are also some academic goal changes but these will be easily implemented by the staff members. There will be some items required to be included in the social studies curriculum and also in science standards.

Monson reported on the summer work projects stating that the roofing project is making good progress. He was able to hire an Ag teacher and is moving along on other hires. The district is still in need of one elementary teacher following the resignation of Hannah Plattner and additional paras. 

The board members had a few questions for staff. The first included the situation of the new softball fields and if more work is needed. They were told that the softball fields are done with what is needed right now. They are hoping for lights for field three at some point in the future but this is a long-term goal. All three phases of the project are complete and it was noted that Morris hosted some very successful tournaments during the summer.

Another question regarding the new football section Morris will be in for at least the next two years. Morris has been moved into Section 8AAA which has more teams to the north. During the regular season, they will probably play the same schools as before. However, when playoffs start they may have to travel to play schools such as Thief River Falls and East Grand Forks. The Minnesota State High School League determines the sections and this is reviewed every two years. It is hoped that this will be changed in two years. Right now, Morris will be one of the smaller schools in Section 8AAA. If Morris would pair with Chokio-Alberta, the enrollment numbers would bring them to an AA section.

The board members approved the Long Term Facilities plan which is prepared every ten years. They also approved changes to policies that are needed to meet new legislative requirements. There will also be some wage changes made for at-will employees.