Six-year-old Hannah Franklin fidgeted and played with a hand-held computer game Monday while she waited outside the Minot Public School District office with her mother, Katie Franklin, to register for the start of school next week. Katie Franklin said the family moved to Minot from Colorado so her husband could take a new job. Hannah will be a first-grader at Bel Air Elementary.
All new families to the Minot Public Schools are being asked to register at the district office this year instead of at individual schools and there was a long line of parents on Monday morning waiting to fill out the paperwork. Some 79 students were registered at the school district office on Tuesday alone.
At last count there were some 220 more new children enrolling in the school district since school started last fall and a total of 7,105 students registered in K-12, said elementary assistant superintendent Jeff Holm. But the number of new students fluctuates daily.
Andrea Johnson/MDN • A portable classroom is set up in front of Sunnyside Elementary on Monday. Portable classrooms will be in use at several Minot schools next week because of an increasing number of students.
"We know some students are going to be no-shows," said Holm, but they aren't sure how many that will be. Some schools start after Labor Day so the district won't receive records requests from former students' new schools until sometime in September. Holm said the district has added a couple of kindergarten sections, one at Sunnyside Elementary and one at Washington Elementary. A few more will likely be added.
"We think we're growing, certainly," said Holm. "Seven thousand is a number we haven't seen in a number of years."
Supt. Mark Vollmer said parents should register their children for school as soon as possible this week. Some people from out of state might not realize that school will start on Aug. 22 because out-of-state schools often start after Labor Day, said Vollmer. Parents can call 857-4422 for more information about registering their child for classes.
When classes start, kids might notice some changes, not least of all in the lunch line.
Food services director Ivy Thorson said there are U.S. Department of Agriculture rules, aimed mainly at improving the nutritional quality and variety of school lunches, that necessitate the changes.
Thorson said students will now be required to have 1/2 cup of fruits or vegetables on their lunch tray for it to count as a full meal. Though kids must load the fruits and veggies on their trays, teachers can't force them to actually eat the food. Thorson said they will try to offer enough fruit and vegetable choices so picky kids will still find something they like to eat. Schools will also keep track of which foods seem most popular at individual schools.
"If one school wants more cucumbers, we can order more," said Thorson.
The district has installed salad bars at a couple of the elementaries, including Washington Elementary, Edison Elementary and North Plains Elementary and will be offering extra servings of fruits and vegetables at the remaining elementaries so kids have more choices. Salad bars are already available at the upper grade levels and, as money allows, salad bars will be installed at the remaining elementaries.
Thorson said 14 schools in the district qualified for the government's Fresh Fruit and Vegetable Program, which already gives kids in the classrooms a chance to try different fruits and vegetables. Hopefully that means kids will be willing to eat fruits and vegetables during school lunch as well.
The amount of food and calories offered at each meal will be based on three different age grops: grades K-5, 6-8 and 9-12. Grades K-8 need 1/2 cup of fruit, for instance, while grades 9-12 need one cup of fruit. Grades K-8 need 3/4 cup of vegetables and grades 9-12 need one cup of vegetables.
Thorson said the lunch program is now limited as to how much meat or meat alternate (cheese, yogurt, peanut butter) and grains it can offer. Previously it had a minimum it had to meet but could offer more. Now the lunch program must stay within a specified range for each age group. For instance, grades K-5 can only have 8 to 9 servings of grain per week; grades 6 to 8 can have 8 to 10 servings of grains per week and grades 9 to 12 can have 10 to 12 servings of grains per week. In practical terms, that means the district can't offer a sandwich choice every day to elementary children because one slice of bread counts as one serving.
Even though portions will be somewhat smaller, the amount of fruits and vegetables available should make up for it.
The district has already made some changes, such as switching to whole grain breads and pizza crusts and corndogs. It also offers dark green, orange/red, beans, starchy and other vegetables every week and serves low-fat dressings. Sweet potato fries dipped in ranch dressing were well received in some schools last year, said Thorson.
Thorson said she thinks the lunches offered will be healthier and kids will get used to the changes after the first few weeks of school.