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Facts and myths about germs at school

(c) Syda Productions/stock.Adobe.com

(StatePoint) Everybody seems to have an opinion about germs — what causes them, where they’re located, how to avoid them — especially when it comes to children.

Experts say that American children miss 22 million days of school annually due to colds, flu and other infections.

“Avoiding germs at schools isn’t as simple as just washing your hands in the bathroom or sneezing into your sleeve,” says Charles Gerba, Ph.D., professor of microbiology and environmental sciences at the University of Arizona. “Germs are on everything kids touch in the classroom, as well as around the hallways, cafeteria and playground.”

With this in mind, it is important to separate facts from myths about germs in schools.

• Fact: Desks Are Among the Most Germ-Prone Items. It’s true! Students spend most of the day at their desks — sneezes, coughs and all — and, in some schools, they often switch classrooms and share desks with others. At the end of the day, students bring home that cocktail of germs to their families.

• Myth: Any Hand Sanitizer Will Do. According to research from the University of Colorado at Boulder, people carry an average of 3,200 bacteria on their hands. While most hand sanitizers are 99.9 percent effective at killing germs, some only last for a few minutes or until the application dries on the skin. Therefore, parents should consider applying hand sanitizers for their children that last throughout the day, such as Zoono’s GermFree24, which is proven to last for 24 hours on skin and is available as both a foam and a spray.

• Fact: Germs Can Affect Kids Outside the Classroom. Germs in schools aren’t just isolated to classrooms. They are everywhere, including cafeteria trays, playground jungle gyms and sports equipment. In fact, the Clinical Journal of Sports Medicine found 63 percent of gym equipment is contaminated with rhinovirus, which causes the common cold. Reminding children to wash their hands before and after using these items (and wiping them down) will go a long way toward preventing sickness.

• Myth: Sticking Things in Your Mouth is Child’s Play. Sure, curiosity might drive preschoolers to stick items in their mouths that don’t belong. However, older students who nervously chew on pen caps, especially ones they borrow from classmates, or on their own fingernails during tough tests, are susceptible to picking up the germs that are traversing through school.

• Fact: Backpacks Carry More Than Just Books. Backpacks go everywhere — to classrooms, inside lockers, in the cafeteria, in locker rooms — and collect various germs throughout the day. Periodically clean backpacks inside and out. And make sure lunches and other food items, as well as gym clothes, are packed in separate bags to avoid cross-contamination of germs.

• Myth: Sharing is Always Caring. Just about every school supply — from pens and pencils to headphones to sport jerseys — can be a vehicle for harmful bacteria. Make sure children are armed with their own items, including mechanical pencils to avoid using the classroom’s pencil sharpener, and avoid sharing their supplies with classmates.

When it comes to germs, separating myths from facts can help you have a happier, healthier school year.

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Five germ-fighting tips to keep kids healthy this school year

While you can’t avoid germs, you can take steps to strengthen your family’s immunity and overall health. Soccer champion, Christie Rampone with daughters Reece and Rylie.

While you can’t avoid germs, you can take steps to strengthen your family’s immunity and overall health. Soccer champion, Christie Rampone with daughters Reece and Rylie.

(StatePoint) School is a great place to learn, play and make friends. Unfortunately it’s also a great place for germs to get very well acquainted….with your family! With 20 to 30 kids in a classroom and even more on the playground, it’s hard to avoid the germs that cause such illnesses as colds, flus and more.

Three-time Gold Medalist, wife and busy mom of two, Christie Rampone knows the importance of good health. As captain of the U.S. Women’s Soccer Team, she travels over two hundred days a year, often with her young children in tow. So stress, fatigue and staying healthy are daily battles. Since days off are not an option for Rampone, she is offering five “stay healthy” tips that parents can follow all school year long:

• Eat healthy: It’s no secret, a balanced diet is key for a healthy immune system. By focusing on a variety of fruits and vegetables and avoiding processed foods and sugary snacks, your family will get the nutrition it needs to fight off germs during the school year.

“Some of my favorite healthy snacks are carrots, celery and apples. They are easy to pack and extremely nutritious,” says Rampone. “The trick is to create variety, because kids tend to grow tired of the same things quickly.”

• Get plenty of exercise: Frequent, moderate exercise is important for good health and strong immunity.  On a daily basis, encourage kids to play sports, run, bike ride or dance, all to keep their bodies fit, hearts pumping strong and minds happy. Better yet, join in on the fun yourself!

• Sleep at least seven hours a night: Sleep is crucial to good health, both mentally and physically. A recent study showed that when you get less than seven hours sleep at night, you’re three times more likely to come down with a cold or flu.

• Take supplements as needed: Government recommendations call for five to eight servings of fruits and vegetables a day. But how many of us really get them?  To help fill the gaps, look for nutritional supplements supported by published clinical research. Rampone, who has battled Lyme disease, which wreaks havoc on the immune system, has been using such supplements for herself and her entire family.

• Don’t forget about you: As a parent, your first priority is usually the kids. But you need to make sure that you also take care of yourself too, especially during the chaotic school and work week. Make sure that you drink enough water and get a few minutes each day to relax and recharge your immune battery.

More tips to keep kids healthy this school year can be found at www.epicorimmune.com.


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For more information, please refer to www.michigan.gov/immunize.

You are encouraged to discuss these new immunization requirements with your health care provider or local health care department.

If you have a religious or medical reason why your child cannot be immunized, a waiver form (for required immunizations only) must be completed and signed before starting the first day of school.

Health Care Needs

If your child has a medical condition such as diabetes, epilepsy, asthma, acute allergies (food, insect bites, animals), or a physical disability, and /or requires treatments or procedures during school hours, please inform a school representative prior to the first day of school.

Medications (Prescribed and Over the Counter/Treatments)

For the safety of your children, Cedar Springs Public Schools has a medication/treatment policy, which requires signatures from both the health care provider and parent before any medication (including OTC) or treatment may be administered by authorized school staff.  See your school secretary for a copy of the policy and form (s), which you may present to your physician.  Both signatures must also authorize any self-medication by student.  (This includes EipPens, inhalers, etc.)

We are committed to the development of prevention programs that ensure effective response to urgent emergent health problems of students in the school community.   We invite you to direct your questions to the school’s office staff and/or district nurse.

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Help your youngsters shine in school

Setting young scholars on the path to success may be simpler than many parents realize.

(NAPS)—Parents don’t have to do their children’s homework to help them prepare for class.

There are seven things you can do to help your youngsters have a successful school year, explains Dr. Mary Mokris, education specialist at Kumon Math and Reading Centers.

1.    Focus on the positives. Talk to your children about their accomplishments and recognize the skills they used to be successful, such as perseverance, time management, responsibility and independence, all things that can help them in school.

2.    Give your child genuine and frequent praise. Praise your children’s progress, not perfection. Let them know you be­lieve in them, you think they’re special and you have confidence in them. Let your kids know you recognize and value their efforts, not just their final accomplishments.

3.    Set up a study area for your child. It should be quiet (no TV or video games), well ventilated, free of distractions (no phones or pets), well lit and equipped with all necessary supplies: pens, paper, markers, dictionary, thesaurus, calculator, computer.

4.    Establish a consistent homework routine. Schedule daily homework time in your house so it becomes a part of your family’s routine. This also helps children to see that homework is a priority.

5.    Get acquainted with your child’s teachers and keep the lines of communication open. Discuss goal setting with both your child and his or her teacher. This sort of partnership can be very effective in developing healthy homework habits.

6.    Consider an after-school enrichment program. For generations, Kumon Math and Reading Centers have helped millions of children strengthen math and reading skills, increase self-confidence and develop study skills that last a lifetime.

7.    Learn more about ability- based learning. Children work at a level that is comfortable for them; not based on their age or grade, but their ability.

For further information, visit www.kumon.com or call (877) 586-6673.

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Health tips for the new school year


A visit to the pediatrician will help keep your child healthy for school. Discussing health issues with your pediatrician before the start of the year helps children, parents and school staff ensure students’ health and safety all year long.

(StatePoint)  As the new school year gears up and to-do lists get longer, make sure to put your child’s health on the list.

Updating vaccinations, scheduling annual physicals and alerting your child’s school about allergies and illnesses are crucial steps to ensure their academic success, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP).

“Children need to feel their best in order to learn, and schools need to be able to provide for students’ daily health issues as well as special needs, accidents and emergencies,” says O. Marion Burton, MD, of the AAP.

You can ensure a safe and happy year for both parent and child with a little planning.

Thanks to immunizations, most children in the United States today lead much healthier lives than generations past. And while vaccines have reduced many infectious diseases to low levels in the United States, vacationers can bring old and new diseases back into the country. Measles, for example, is still prevalent in other parts of the world and has been linked to recent outbreaks in the U.S. Unvaccinated children are at risk.

That’s why routine, up-to-date vaccinations are as important today as they have ever been. There may be tears, but the pain associated with most immunizations is minor. Consult your pediatrician about keeping your child’s vaccination schedule up to date.

Food Allergies & Illnesses
If your child suffers from food allergies or other health issues that require management during the school day, be sure to contact the school nurse and update your child’s health plan at school. This will ensure that proper steps are taken if the child develops symptoms while at school, and that his or her activities are not restricted unnecessarily.

A child’s health can change from year to year or even month to month, so make sure the school is well aware of how to handle new conditions or restrictions. Parents should also check that you have provided the school with any special medications your child needs.

Annual Physicals
Along with your child’s regular annual physical, aspiring athletes should get a sports physical before the start of the season. Children’s bodies are vulnerable to injury, and as youngsters move through middle childhood—becoming bigger, stronger, faster, and more aggressive—the incidence of injuries rises.

Make sure your athlete wears a well-fitted helmet, mouthpiece, face guard, padding, eye gear, protective cup, or other equipment appropriate for the sport. Of course, regardless of whether your child is on a competitive team or not, parents should promote physical activity for all kids.

For more tips for a healthy school year, visit: www.healthychildren.org.

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School cuts budget by $2 million

Including $54,000 from sports

By Judy Reed

Nothing was sacred this year as Cedar Springs Public Schools looked at ways to cut expenses next year by $2 million, and at the same time found ways to increase their revenue.
Several parents turned up at the Board of Education meeting Monday to voice displeasure that certain sports did not receive funding in the budget. At risk is JV girls golf, JV boys golf, JV baseball, JV softball, girls freshman soccer, and middle school tennis. According to Assistant Superintendent David Cairy, athletic supervisor Autumn Mattson came up with a list of sports where participation levels are low and interest has dropped. “If we have enough interest in a sport, we’ll find a way to do it,” explained Cairy. “We are all about providing opportunities for kids. But if we don’t get enough to sustain it, that’s a problem.”
Board President Joe Marckini and other board members echoed that sentiment. “We were stunned at some of the numbers falling off, especially girls soccer,” said Marckini. “If you get the numbers, I’ll support it.”
Overall, the school cut funding for athletics by $54,125, which also included reductions in supplies, uniforms, and coaches.
Several parents complained that they feel communication on the subject was poor, and that the coaches in the sports didn’t even know their sports were at risk.
“Sports are very important to us, too,” board trustee Todd Hanson told parents. He noted that they also cut technology, and that with fewer teachers, that means increased class sizes, “which no one wants,” he said. He also noted academics are at risk. “We also may not have AP Biology because of low interest,” he said.
The biggest cuts in next year’s budget came from staff reductions: $1 million in teaching staff that retired (12) and won’t be replaced, and $200,000 in support staff (7) that were laid off. They also cut $250,000 in technology, $100,000 in curriculum, and various other service reductions to meet their $30.7 million budget, including using $182,700 from their fund balance.
On a high note, because the school has been getting their fund balance up to a recommended level of 14 percent, they will not need to borrow money this summer—for the first time in many years—to meet payroll, which equals several million dollars. Although the school’s fiscal year starts July 1, the state’s fiscal year doesn’t start until October, causing a gap in payments.
Increases in revenue will also come from sharing services with other districts. Cairy is now also business manager for Kent City schools. He is contracted through Kent Intermediate School District, who will manage the funding. Cedar Springs also continues to share a transportation supervisor with Sparta, and will be doing some bus runs for them where the districts cross lines. They also share some other business services at the KISD.
One big change for next year will be that New Beginnings students will move into Red Hawk Elementary. Cairy said they will be two schools within one building, and will be separated. “It’s not like they don’t see each other, because they already ride the bus together and park at Red Hawk to be released,” noted Cairy. There is plenty of room, because just a few years ago there were 700-plus students at Red Hawk, and currently only a little over 200. Cairy said they will save about $40,000 by moving New Beginnings there from Hilltop–$30,000 in custodial fees, and $10,000 in natural gas from not having to heat that wing.
“We are trying so hard to do anything we can in the business office to be good stewards, so that kids don’t have to miss opportunities,” he remarked.
High Schoolers might also see a bump up in lunch prices from $2.25 to $2.50 but it has nothing to do with the budget. Rather, it’s mandatory to meet federal guidelines.

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School Calendar

School Calendar

April 18 – Preschool Open Registration at Cedar Trails Elementary 8:00 a.m.-3:00 p.m.
April 19 – Fine Arts Night at High School 6:00 p.m. – 8:00 p.m.
April 20 – Sinking Fund Community Forum at Red Hawk Elementary Media Center 7:00p.m.
April 21 – Community Night at High School 6:00 p.m. – 8:00 p.m.
April 22 – Due to previous 2 hour delay – Students WILL attend a full day
May 6 – Early Release Day (2 hours)

Snow Day Make-Ups

Due to the recent snow day and 2 hour delay, we will be in session during the following previously unscheduled times:
April 22 – Students will attend a full day school – No early release day
May 27 – Students will attend a full day of school

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Protecting Our Investment…Securing Our Future

The Cedar Springs Public Schools Board of Education is requesting a one (1) mill sinking fund levy for a period of ten (10) years at the May 3, 2011 election.
• One mill would cost a homeowner with a $100,000 property value fifty dollars per year, less than one dollar per week.
• A sinking fund is a “pay as you go plan” with no interest or finance charges incurred by taxpayers.
• Stagnant or declining state funding has forced budget cuts for the last six years.
• Additional cuts and increased costs from the State are currently proposed at 2.4 million for the 2011-12 school year. In order to continue to support our infrastructure needs without additional funding we will be forced to cut programs for kids.

The Board of Education has worked hard to be good financial stewards.

Since 2003, the Board of Education has increased the district fund balance from a low of 5.7 percent to a current level of 14.99 percent. This fund balance allows us

to meet July, August, and September payrolls without the need to borrow. The Board has also decreased the percent of dollars spent on payroll from 85% to 75%.

Teachers, administrators, and support staff have taken freezes and benefits cuts to support our student needs first.

The Sinking Fund is the means by which the District can protect the community’s investment used by our students, staff, parents, and community.

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Advisory group recommends school improvements

Group proposes sinking fund to finance repairs

By Judy Reed

They were once a source of pride in the community—and praised by other school districts. But the tennis courts at Red Hawk Elementary are now in grave disrepair and no longer needed now that there are much newer tennis courts at the high school and middle school. And the courts at Hilltop are in even worse shape.
Those are just two things that need to be addressed, according to a board advisory group that made recommendations for repair of the Cedar Springs School district’s infrastructure last November.
Board Advisory Group members Sue Wolfe, Barb Lehman, Heidi Reed, Shannon Vanderhyde, Scott Fuller, and Amy Galle identified a list of priorities that centered on maintaining the community’s investment, and discussed ways to fund the improvements.
Some of the things the group recommended were removal of the tennis courts at Red Hawk and Hilltop; repaving parking lots and roads, curb and gutter; increased parking at Cedar Trails, Beach, and high school; replace gym floors at Beach and Cedar View; replace synthetic turf; security modifications; energy efficient boilers; carpeting; several technology improvements, etc.
“The campus is the community showcase. Landscaping and building structures need to highlight and support our image as a great school,” the group noted in the report.
The advisory board said that the general fund revenue and expenses have stayed within a tight range over the last several years, and that the needed repairs could not be met within the current general fund. The group gave the board two ways to pay for the improvements, with one being a bond issue, and the other a sinking fund.
The school board opted to look at the sinking fund, which can be used for the construction and repair of school buildings, and the purchase of real estate, but not routine maintenance or the purchase or replacement of equipment.
On Monday night, the school board saw a rough draft of the language. According to the rough draft, they would be asking for one mill ($1.00 on every $1,000 of taxable evaluation) for a period of 10 years.
While the rough draft mentioned real estate, both the board and Superintendent Ron McDermed were adamant that was not part of what they were considering. “We are not planning to buy property,” remarked McDermed.
The board instructed him to check on whether the “real estate” language needed to be in the proposal. He agreed and will bring back the proposal to the board next month. If they approve the language, the sinking fund proposal will be on the ballot in May, at the same time as the next school board election.

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School cuts $1 million; must cut $700,000 more

By Judy Reed

How do you make cuts, and keep them away from kids, when there is no fat left? That’s the dilemma facing the Cedar Springs Board of Education as they wrestle with dwindling revenue and escalating costs.

“I understand the state’s situation,” said Cedar Springs Superintendent Ron McDermed. “But we’ve been doing this the last 7 or 8 years. It’s like having your home budget. First you cut out the fun stuff, then you stop going out to dinner, and you cut it until there’s not much left, just bills to pay. Right now there’s no extra to trim off.”

Based on current information from the state, McDermed said that they expect $268 less per student next year than they received at the beginning of this year.

Between cuts made earlier this year, and those announced Monday evening, they have cut about $1 million, and will need to cut $700,000 more.

Changes announced Monday evening at the board meeting had to do with a restructuring of administration at the district level. Changes include eliminating the human resources position; eliminating an administrative assistant in the business office; reviewing current contracts and investigating additional possible contracting. They also will be juggling principals at the secondary level due to a need for another principal at the high school level. When Dean of Students Mike Annerino retired last year, he wasn’t replaced. “We had hoped we could get by, but we couldn’t,” noted McDermed. He said that currently the high school has two principals for 1,000 students. “Our focus is to make sure we support the instructional model in a building and build student achievement. Building principals need to have time to see and work with teachers. It’s just not workable with 50 staff, 1,000 kids and two principals. They also need to be able to get back to the community in a timely manner on issues.”

With that in mind, middle school principal Ken See will be moving to the high school, to work with main principal Ron Behrenwald and assistant principal April Stevens. Cedar Trails Elementary co-principal Sue Spahr will be main principal at the middle school (7th and 8th grade), and Anne Kostus will be the main principal at Red Hawk (6th grade) but will also share duties at the middle school with Spahr.

McDermed said that removing Spahr from Cedar Trails doesn’t mean they think it’s overstaffed. “It’s a huge building (600 kids). But we needed stronger support for the middle school. We’ll look to see how we can better support Cedar Trails,” he said.

Other changes include the reduction in hours of an intervention coach position, which reduces one special education teacher position; the elimination of a part-time mentoring position; and the elimination of a middle school counseling position, which reduces one special education worker social worker position. All those reductions will save about $315,000 to $400,000. Other cuts made earlier this year included three people indicating they would retire (and will not be replaced), pausing bus replacements, and other one-time fixes. That makes up the $1 million already saved.

“The board sent a message that they wanted to keep cuts away from kids and that’s what we tried to do,” explained McDermed. “But there’s not much left.”

To reach the additional $700,000, he said they may have to cut seven certified teachers. “We really don’t want to impact kids with class sizes,” explained McDermed. “But everything is on the board.”

He said the next phase of cuts should be announced at the first board meeting in May.

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Back to school

Excitement. Apprehension. New clothes, new faces, new friends. All could be used to describe the first day back at school this week for students, parents, teachers, and administrators all across the area. Cedar Springs Public was one of the districts that returned to school Tuesday, and the new superintendent thought it went great.

Cedar Trails Co-principal Jennifer Harper helps new kindergarteners get where they need to on the first day of school. Photo by J. Reed

Cedar Trails Co-principal Jennifer Harper helps new kindergarteners get where they need to on the first day of school. Photo by J. Reed

“It was fabulous, a great start to the new year,” said Superintendent Ron McDermed. “I thought it was one of the smoothest openings we’ve ever had.”

Principals, teachers, parents and other volunteers were on hand to make sure all the new kindergarteners and other students got where they needed to be. “Everyone pitches in,” he said.

McDermed remarked that there was noticeably less congestion on the campus due to moving the sixth grade from the elementary to the secondary bus run. “There were less buses on the elementary run, and less parents at any location at any given time,” he said.

The high school also implemented a new drop off and pick up point for students that parents need to get used to. Parents must drive by the circle drive entrance, then take a quick right turn along the sidewalk that leads from the parking lot. A row of student parking was eliminated to make room for the new drop off.  The new route was created to allow space for the pickup and dropoff of disabled and special education students in the circular drive.

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Back to school means back to traffic safety basics

N-traffic-basicsIt’s that time of year again when bus stops are full and school bells are ringing and motorists are urged to watch for children as they make their morning and afternoon commutes.

The school year officially begins Tuesday and the Michigan Office of Highway Safety Planning (OHSP) is reminding motorists to brush up on their traffic safety A-B-Cs to ensure it starts safely: stay alert, obey school bus lights and use car seats and seat belts when transporting children.

In 2008, 11 pedestrians ages 6-17 were killed and 491 were injured in Michigan. Three bicyclists in the same age range were killed and 542 suffered injuries. Children should be encouraged to only use crosswalks when crossing the street and to always wear a bike helmet when riding a bike.

“Many times tragedy strikes when a child is running late for the bus or class and runs across the street without looking or from behind parked cars,” said Michael L. Prince, OHSP director. “Motorists need to slow down in school zones and be alert when driving in and around schools and buses.”

Drivers are also reminded to treat school bus lights like traffic signals:

  • Yellow flashing lights indicate the bus is preparing to stop to load or unload children. Motorists should slow down and prepare to stop their vehicles.
  • Red flashing lights and extended stop arms indicate children are getting on or off. Motorists must stop their cars and wait until the red lights stop flashing and the extended stop sign is withdrawn.

Parents who drive their children to school need to obey Michigan’s seat belt and car seat laws. Children must ride in a car or booster seat until they are 8 years of age, or 4 feet 9 inches tall, whichever comes first. Children up to age 16 must use seat belts in all seating positions.

In addition, children younger than four must ride in a car seat in the rear seat of the vehicle if the vehicle has a back seat. If all available rear seats are occupied by children under four, then a child under four may ride in the front seat if properly restrained in a car seat. If the child is in a rear-facing car seat, they may be placed in the front seat only if the front passenger air bag is turned off and all rear seats are occupied by children under four.

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Ray Winnie
Intandem Credit Union


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