New food protocols address allergy problems

Photo by Ian Magnuson
Photo by Ian Magnuson

By Andrew Revord
News Editor
Students going to the Math/Science Resource Room and other places during lunch on the first few days of school might have noticed a new rule: People can’t eat in the classrooms.
There are now a number of students attending Prospect with severe food allergies.These allergies are so severe that even the slightest trace of certain foods, such as peanut products, can be extremely dangerous to the students’ health.
As a result, Prospect is enforcing a new protocol limiting the times and places that people can eat.
“We are going to ask the teachers to be very careful about admitting food into the classroom and cleaning up if food is consumed,” Principal Kurt Laakso said.
Laakso said that with a few exceptions, students won’t be able to eat in most areas of the school under normal circumstances. An example is the music hallway, where many students have given up a regular lunch period and eat before going to band.
“Other than [the band hall], there’s not going to be exceptions that allow for regular consumption of food,” Laakso said.
Even the band hall will now be monitored more closely by staff to ensure student safety.
This change is not just affecting students, though.  The staff has also been made aware of the situation and is prepared to handle it accordingly. Teachers will be the primary line of defense in the fight to control food consumption in school.
“They’re the first people responsible for conduct in the classroom,” Laakso said,  “but our administration has the responsibility of asking them to attend to these concerns, and we have communicated to [the teachers] clearly about this issue.”
The issue isn’t limited to teachers, however. The custodial staff is “an important response to any allergy concerns,” making sure that no residue from allergy-inducing foods is present in the building.
In addition to the teachers and custodians, Laakso also mentioned that the school nurse is a “key” person in educating Prospect’s staff about allergy problems.

The entire teaching staff was informed about the allergy problem on the first institute day of the school year, August 23.

In spite of all the current actions the school is taking, the district has still not made an official allergy policy in light of the new situation. Laakso acknowledges the lack of official district action, but said that “the district is much more aware of these health concerns than ever before.”
This issue is also not unique to Prospect. Other schools in the district have more students enrolled who have severe food allergies and are responding to the changing situation.

Laakso said that all the district schools are doing something about the allergy problem based off the specific situations each school faces. He believes that awareness of this issue has been raised because of better allergy diagnosis.

“Statistically, we’re more aware of kids being diagnosed with severe allergies.  The more information we receive, the more responsible we are to respond,” Laakso said.

While Laakso doesn’t wish to “speculate” about the number of students with severe allergies currently attending Prospect, he makes it clear that power isn’t in numbers in this case.
“All it takes is one student with an extremely severe allergy, and we’re going to take action,” he said.  “The life of every student is precious.”