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County schools' Head lice policy is discussed

Friday, September 5, 2014

By BEN R. WILLIAMS - Bulletin Staff Writer

Henry County Public Schools will re-examine its policies on head lice and other conditions based on a recommendation from the school board.

During the comments from the board section of the school board’s September monthly meeting on Thursday, Dr. Merris Stambaugh, Collinsville District board member, asked Superintendent Dr. Jared Cotton to have the school staff review policies on head lice, ringworm and pink eye to potentially bring those policies up to date with current recommendations.

“Our current policy sends students home and doesn’t allow them to return until they’re free of nits (head louse eggs),” Stambaugh said. “That’s a very outdated policy. The CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) recommendation ... says we shouldn’t be sending students home, we shouldn’t be keeping them out, and it outlines the reasons. The American Academy of Pediatrics, the American Academy of Family Physicians and the National Association of School Nurses all concur. There’s really nobody out there recommending what we do.”

Cotton said a state survey a couple of years ago determined that the number of schools with and without no-nit policies was split fairly evenly. Henry County Schools allowed students with nits to attend school for a brief period in the early 1990s, he added, but the decision soon was reversed.

Francis Zehr, Ridgeway District school board member, said that he would appreciate the school providing updated information on head lice. He said he was aware that it once was a serious problem in schools and placed an undue burden on teachers.

Stambaugh said the greatest difficulty regarding a policy change would be explaining the change to the public, based on commonly held misperceptions about the danger of head lice.

“I think that’s one of the biggest challenges, is educating the public about this,” he said. “From the medical literature standpoint, it’s pretty clear cut that this is not a health risk. There are no ongoing health risks from lice. There are concerns.

“It’s obviously very traumatizing to family. There are a lot of misconceptions about what it means. ... I think that’s where our big role should be, to educate the public,” he added.

Stambaugh said that he did not believe that the policies of other school divisions should set the standard for county school policies.

He added that he is in favor of a policy that would involve identifying lice, notifying parents and providing resources and information. Also, he said, he would not be opposed to getting signed forms from parents indicating that they have received this information and initiated treatment.

“But I think identification and education is a better role for us than sending students home and not allowing them to return, especially since nobody in the medical community says that’s the right thing to do,” Stambaugh said.

Curtis Millner, Iriswood District school board member, said he was in favor of school staff researching the issue.

“There’s always new information coming out, and anything we can do to maximize the amount of time the child spends in the school, I think we’re all better off,” he said. “I think it’s not something we should rush into. I think we should take the necessary time to properly review it.”

Cotton said the school staff would research policies and recommendations and offer a report at the October or November school board meeting.

Also at Thursday’s meeting, the board:

• Heard a presentation on The Daily 5 program from Liz Motley and Crystal Dixon.

According to Motley, Daily 5 program was designed based on research into the habits that make children strong readers and writers. Students are given the option of reading to themselves; working on writing; reading to someone; listening to reading; and “word work.”

Dixon said students are able to work toward personal reading and writing goals, while teachers are able to move through the classroom and assist individual students as needed.

• Heard from Marnie Mills, youth market director of the American Heart Association, who presented a plaque to representatives of county elementary schools recognizing 100 percent elementary school participation in the Jump Rope for Heart and Hoops for Heart programs for 2013-2014.

• Approved Assistant Superintendent Sandy Strayer as Cotton’s designee to attend meetings of the school board if Cotton is unable to attend.

Virginia code and school board policy require a designee of the superintendent. Former Assistant Superintendent DeWitt House previously had occupied the role, but retired from the school system in June.

• Approved a contract for Petroleum Traders Corp. (PTC) of Fort Wayne, Ind., to provide No. 2 heating oil to 11 school facilities. The school division’s supervisor of facilities, Keith Scott, said PTC intends to use local oil companies to deliver the fuel.

Scott said that due to the volatility of fuel pricing, a fixed price of $3.0023 per gallon was recommended. Based on an annual average use of 85,000 gallons of oil, the annual cost of the contract is expected to be $255,195.50.

• Approved an additional appropriation of $135,047 to the school nutrition budget for the fresh fruit and vegetable program. The request will be passed to the Henry County Board of Supervisors.

The funds were awarded to the school nutrition program by the Virginia Department of Education. The funds will be used at Axton Elementary, Campbell Court Elementary, Carver Elementary, Collinsville Primary, Rich Acres Elementary and Sanville Elementary.

• Approved a contract for Serv-Pak Corp. of Hollywood, Fla., to buy bag-sealing equipment and food grade bags.

The bags and sealers will replace zip-close plastic bags and paper bags used in food preparation.

The estimated cost of the contract is $53,400. Director of School Nutrition Programs Marci Lexa said that the sealers and bags will offer a savings over zip-close bags.

• Approved the proposed fiscal year 2016 budget development calendar.

• Saw a video presented by Cotton showing pictures of the 500-plus kindergarten students who make up the class of 2027.

• Approved updates to certain school board policies on second reading.

The policy revisions were made in order to bring school policies into compliance with new or existing laws and regulations, and also to revise certain policies for editorial reasons.


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