From classroom trends to school board decisions, Class Act will keep you updated on all the school issues followed by the Star Tribune’s education reporters. Contributors include Steve Brandt, who covers Minneapolis; Kim McGuire, who covers the west metro; Erin Adler, who covers the south metro; Anthony Lonetree and Libor Jany, who cover St. Paul and the east metro, and Paul Levy and Shannon Prather, who cover the north metro.

Governor Dayton dishes on new plan to provide free meals to hungry Minnesota students

Posted by: Kim McGuire Updated: June 4, 2014 - 12:08 PM

Governor Mark Dayton served breakfast to students at Morris Bye Elementary in Coon Rapids, taking time to dish on state's recent investment of $4 million in school lunch and breakfast programs.

State lawmakers approved legislation that includes $3.5 million for the school lunch program to help ensure 61,000 low-income students have access to healthy meals at lunchtime.

It also provides $569,000 for an imitative that guarantees 64,000 kindergarten students will be provided a free breakfast.

“We cannot expect our students to succeed on empty stomachs,” said Governor Dayton. “Healthy meals are crucial to our students’ achievements. I thank Senator Alice Johnson, Representative Jerry Newton, Senator Jeff Hayden, and Representative Yvonne Selcer for passing this very important measure.”

Dayton was joined at Morris Bye by Education Commissioner Brenda Cassellius,as well as Senator Alice Johnson and Representative Jerry Newton.

"When a child is hungry, they have a difficult time learning and concentrating in school," Johnson said. "Studies show a nutritious breakfast will reduce absenteeism, help close the achievement gap and increase graduation rates.

The new initiatives follow a January report from Mid-Minnesota Legal Aid that showed 46 school districts had policies that denied students lunches if they could not pay for it.

Recently, the U.S. Department of Agriculture announced that 138 Minnesota schools were eligible under a provision of new federal law that would make it easier for low-income families to apply for free or reduced price lunches.

Edina elementary student saves classmate from choking during school picnic

Posted by: Kim McGuire Updated: June 3, 2014 - 2:19 PM

As it turns out, kids sometimes listen to their parents.

From left: Zach, Fletcher and Aiden

From left: Zach, Fletcher and Aiden

Zach Furman certainly did, and today one of his classmates at Concord Elementary in Edina is probably alive because the third-grader learned from his Dad how to administer the Heimlich technique.

During a school picnic, one of Furman's friends, Fletcher Dypwick, began choking on his lunch. Zach and another friend, Aiden Roberts, were nearby.

“I started to ask Fletcher if he wanted to join us and noticed he was choking,” Zach said. “I was scared for him because his face was pale and he was doing the choking sign—covering his neck with both of his hands.”

But Zach remembered his Dad's lesson on the Heimlich technique and jumped into action while Aiden went to get a teacher. By the time a teacher got there, the food was dislodged much to everyone's relief.

The next day, Fletcher's mom invited Zach and Aiden over for a playdate and to formally thank the two boys.

I never thought I was going to use what I had learned,” Zach said. “But I am so glad that I could use that knowledge to help someone.”

Mound Westonka student graduates with perfect attendance for her entire school career

Posted by: Kim McGuire Updated: May 30, 2014 - 2:29 PM

Write this down: Vitamins, swimming, lots of sleep and good genes.

That's what recent Mound Westonka High School graduate Sari Mailey credits with helping her maintain a 14-year perfect attendance record, a streak that actually started in preschool.

"I did not set out to get perfect attendance but did not feel that I had a reason to miss school," Mailey said.

Mailey's perfect attendance was acknowleged this past Sunday when she graduated from high school.

Her parents, Charla and Don Mailey, said they never had to employ extra motivation to get their daughter to go to school. Non-school days were a different story.

"Unless she had a previous commitment, yes, we had to drag her out of bed many times," Charla said.

Mailey will attend the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire in the fall and plans on studying communication sciences and disorders. She also will swim for the college team.

She also plans on keeping her perfect attendance streak alive in college.

Stillwater schools lunch prices may increase by 10 cents

Posted by: Libor Jany Updated: May 29, 2014 - 11:01 AM

The cost of a school lunch for K-12 students in the Stillwater Area School District may increase by 10 cents next year as schools try to comply with new federal requirements.

The school board will decide next month whether to raise the cost of a lunch by 10 cents to $2.40 in the elementary schools and $2.70 in the middle and high schools, starting in the 2014-2015 school year.

District 834 officials said they proposed increasing the cost of lunch in an effort to comply with one of the less-publicized components of the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010, which requires schools to charge on average no less for paid student meals than the district receives in federal free meal subsidies – about $2.50 to $3 in most school districts.

“As part of the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010 and school food authorities participating in a national lunch program – which we are and which we do – we’re required to have a pay-equity rate. It is a weighted average per school lunch,” Dennis Bloom, the district’s director of operations, said at a recent board meeting. “Our district’s current weighted average is $2.44 and USDA guidelines require that our weighted average should be $2.65, so we’re below what the weighted average should be.”

Families could face another price increase in the 2015-2016 school year, he said, adding that rising food prices were also to blame.

Bloom said that even with the increases, the proposed lunch fees are still comparable to other neighboring districts that are considering price hikes, including Mahtomedi, North St. Paul-Maplewood-Oakdale and Inver Grove Heights.

The school board will vote on the increased fees on June 12.

Vikings star Cordarrelle Patterson visits Rice Lake Elementary after being invited by a first grader

Posted by: Kim McGuire Updated: May 28, 2014 - 11:21 AM

The end of the school year often brings visitors to campus - moms, dads, grandparents, and maybe even a pizza delivery guy or two.

But yesterday Rice Lake Elementary in Maple Grove had a very special guest who showed up simply because a little girl asked. And it probably didn't hurt that she complimented his football cleats and his ability to score touchdowns for the Minnesota Vikings.

Last month, Nevaeh Torma, a first grader at Rice Lake, wrote a letter to Vikings star Cordarrelle Patterson inviting him to visit her class. Her teacher Drew Gernand tweeted a photo of Nevaeh holding the letter. And on Tuesday, Patterson showed up.

The wide receiver had lunch with Nevaeh and spend some time in her classroom answering questions, signing autographs and taking photos.

He even went outside to play football in the rain with the kids.

 “Just working hard and having fun with what I do helped me achieve my goals and dreams. I always smile and try to make the most of every day,” Patterson said. “If I can help these students smile and enjoy their day, we all win and we all get better. It’s a blessing to be able to make these kids light up and enjoy their time.”



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