Administrators in the Williamsville Central School District say the district has enhanced its cafeteria cleaning procedures and has taken other precautions to protect students with severe allergies after a yearlong analysis of school protocols.
A team of staff members who have spent the last year reviewing and updating the district’s practices told School Board members Tuesday that the district has worked to educate teachers, students and parents on dealing with the potential for life-threatening allergies.
“Our protocol is five pages in length because it covers every area that we could think of to promote safe and inclusive participation,” said Anna R. Cieri, the district’s assistant superintendent for exceptional education and student services.
The district, like other schools, has dealt with an increasing number of students who have life-threatening allergies to peanuts, various products or insect bites in recent years, and has been pressed by a group of parents to update its guidelines and increase training for staff members.
One in 13 school-age children in the country have food allergies, or roughly two in each of the district’s classrooms, said Christine Harding, a nurse practitioner for the district.
“Life-threatening food allergies have been on the rise,” said Harding, noting that a report by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found that food allergies among children increased by about 50 percent between 1997 and 2011. “We don’t have a clear understanding as to why that is.”
The district spent the year reviewing and refining its procedures for dealing with anaphylaxis, or life-threatening allergic reactions. The steps the district takes in its elementary schools include: communicating with parents in rooms that are restricted because of nut allergies and providing a restricted table in the cafeteria for students with severe allergies. The district also trains staff and students, places signs in buildings to warn of potential allergens, works with parents to provide appropriate treats for celebrations and offers prepackaged peanut butter and jelly sandwiches in the cafeterias, rather than preparing them in the school kitchens.
“It’s very important that the members of the school community work collaboratively to safeguard our children,” Cieri said.
Chelsea Leone, a Williamsville parent who has been among those asking for updates to the district’s allergy procedures, said the district has taken good steps to update its procedures during the last two years, but she would like to see additional precautions taken. “They’re doing a lot of great things, but I hope they don’t end right here,” Leone said after the presentation.