"In light of dramatic statistics about Kentuckians' poor health, the new law comes as a very important and timely measure," said Superintendent Lu Young.
Kentucky ranks as the third highest in the United States in child obesity. Between 1991 and 2001, the number of severely overweight people in the state has doubled.
Young said that while teachers and staff have no control over the students' lifestyle when they're outside school, teaching them healthy habits and making sure they eat right and get enough exercise while on campus will have a positive effect.
"At least while we have them, we're going to do the right thing," she said.
Pat Glass, district school nurse and one of the district leaders for the wellness plan, said that first thing that was done before putting the plan together was checking to see that school lunches meet the required standards.
"There are very specific requirements in terms of calories, sugar, fat and carbohydrate content. You can not exceed them," she said.
The school system performed a nutritional assessment in the fall, and it showed that the system, as a whole, is in full compliance with state requirements.
"We're within the guidelines, but we're going to strive to be even better," said Glass.
There will be even more fresh fruit and vegetables on the menu, and unhealthy snacks and beverages will be removed from vending machines.
"We'll only have water, low fat milk, one hundred percent juice and beverages that contain less than 10 grams of sugar per serving," she said.
Another idea included in the plan is gradually switching to non-food rewards.
"Candies are inexpensive, can be individually wrapped and children love them. But it's hard to control how much sugar students will consume if they get candy from several teacher during the day," said Young.
In the future, there'll be more stickers, toys and extra computer time used for rewards.
"Or if they still use food rewards, we'll encourage them to use healthy snacks like popcorn and granola," Young said.
The assessment of district students' physical activity was also done in the fall, and it showed that county schools are in compliance with the state requirements.
"However, we're going to do more than required," said Young. "Children don't walk to school anymore. A lot of our neighborhoods don't even have walking paths or biking trails, and even if they do, parents don't feel it's safe."
Making a child sit in the classroom while others play during recess is not a valid disciplinary measure any more.
"We've changed our disciplinary policy, so loss of physical activity time is not an option," said Young.
In addition to existing athletic teams, the district is looking into starting a number of intramural programs.
"We might have volleyball and basketball teams, jump-rope and tabo clubs, line dancing to provide our students with additional non-competitive activities," she said.
Glass said that measuring body mass index will be done routinely at every school.
"Parent education is another important area," she said. "We'll be giving suggestions on what to feed children, how to cook for them."
There will be classes and workshops for parents at night and also during health fairs and other after school events. Also, educational materials for parents will be sent home with the students.
Included in the plan are measures to improve the overall health of teachers and other staff members.
"We started weight loss programs in most schools, and teams will be competing for the Biggest Loser title," said Young, referring to the popular TV show.
Young said that the wellness team members would appreciate input from parents and other members of the community.
"It will be a work in progress," she said.
Glass said that she has a lot of hope for the project.
"Change is hard, and it's slow, but as long as you're willing to change, it's half the battle," she said.
Other district leaders in favor of the plan are Karen Barden, district food services director, Patrice Jones, community education director, and Charlie Temple, district athletic director. Representatives of the local health department, YMCA, Parks and Recreation, 4-H, parents and teachers are also on the planning team.
The plan, once approved, will become a part of the comprehensive district improvement plan, and its overall goal is to improve student/staff wellness, attendance and achievement.