District No. 2904 School Board votes to make TAES ‘peanut-aware’ school
By Per Peterson
Tracy Area Elementary School isn’t 100% peanut-free, but it is now officially peanut-aware.
The District No. 2904 School Board on Monday voted unanimously to classify the school as “peanut-aware,” meaning it will take special precaution to curb the use of peanut butter in the school.
Tracy Area High School Supt. Chad Anderson said there are students at the elementary school who suffer from severe peanut allergies — so severe that they don’t actually have to consume a peanut-based product to get sick.
“It could be that someone left a peanut on a table, and the residual is there and they could touch it, it could go through their skin and their throat could swell up,” Anderson said.
In the past, Anderson said, the school has tried implementing peanut safe-zones, or having tables where peanut butter wasn’t allowed, but it’s gotten to the point where there are more students with peanut allergies than ever before.
“I asked some other schools, and I would say the majority are peanut-aware,” said Anderson. “Basically that means you don’t serve peanut butter in your school, you don’t allow students to bring in peanut butter — either snacks or sandwiches — and if they do accidentally bring one in there’s a special table they can sit at with their friends and eat it.”
The school’s alternative to traditional peanut butter is something called “Wowbutter,” a peanut butter substitute that costs about $5 more per container but is a soybean-based spread.
“The texture, the look, the smell is the same … it’s close to the taste,” Munson said.
Anderson said he has tried Wowbutter and agreed with Munson that it’s the closest thing to peanut butter one can get – without the peanuts.
“It’s the same texture as peanut butter, it tastes like peanut butter,” he said. “There’s a little bit of a different after-taste, but it tasted fine to me.”
Munson hoped this new peanut butter option would be available to students this week. He said notes were sent home to parents, asking them to not send any peanut or peanut butter products to school with the children.
“We’ve had some questions asked of us, and we told them about the policy we’re going to have — they can pick friends they’re going to sit with at a side table, but we hope they do not bring (peanut butter),” Munson said.
There are currently no students in the high school with peanut allergies, so the peanut awareness is only at TAES. However, the policy will likely carry over to the high school when elementary students with peanut allergies graduate from the sixth grade.
“When they do come to the seventh grade, we’ll definitely have to have that conversation,” Anderson said.
According to FARE — Food Allergy Research & Education — peanuts can cause a severe, potentially life-threatening allergic reaction, known as anaphylaxis. Allergic reactions can be unpredictable, and even very small amounts of peanut can cause one. Casual skin contact is less likely to trigger a severe reaction, but casual contact can become a problem if the affected area then touches the eyes, nose or mouth. For example, if a child with peanut allergy gets peanut butter on her fingers and rubs her eyes, she can have a reaction.
The number of children in the U.S. with a peanut allergy more than tripled between 1997-2008, according to FARE. As of November 2018, it’s estimated that some 1.2 million children and teens in the U.S. have peanut allergies.
Foods to avoid for those with peanut allergies include lupin, a common flour substitute in gluten-free food, and peanut butter.
• The board on Monday moved to certify the Minnesota Department of Education Levy Limitation and Certification report for 2019 payable in 2020 at the maximum level of funding allowed by state law. The board approved a 2.7% levy increase.
• The board also approved the 2019-20 and 2020-21 Teachers Education Association contract with a weighted two-year settlement increase of 2.76%. Anderson said he was very pleased with how the negotiation process played out.
• Parent-teacher conferences are scheduled for 3:30-7 p.m. on Oct. 14 and Oct. 21, and picture retakes will be Oct. 8.