The Assembly Education Committee met on Monday, March 12 and released the following bills, pertaining to public school temperature controls, panic alarms and student nutrition.
A665 – Requires each board of education to adopt policy establishing temperature control standards and guidelines for school district facilities. The policy must ensure, to the greatest extent feasible, that school buildings provide students with a temperature-controlled environment that is conducive to learning. The policy must:
- Require that a staff member is designated in each school building in the district to monitor compliance with the standards and initiate permitted corrective action.
- Establish a protocol to follow in instances where classroom temperatures are identified as being not conducive to learning.
- Identify what temperature control measures are permitted in accordance with local building and fire codes.
- Be informed by the Indoor Air Quality Standard established by the New Jersey Department of Labor and Workforce Development .
- Require that corrective measures be addressed, where feasible, by action outlined in the Indoor Air Quality Standard.
The bill directs the N.J. Department of Education and the N.J. Department of Health to jointly develop guidance to assist school districts in establishing and implementing a policy concerning temperature control. NJSBA supports the bill.
The bill refers to the Indoor Air Quality Standards – N.J.A.C.12:100-13.3, which states that: Where a mechanical ventilation system capable of regulating temperature is present, facilities personnel strive to maintain office building temperatures within the range of 68 to 79 degrees Fahrenheit. If outside this range, the designated person should be contacted. The designated person will ascertain whether the HVAC system is operating properly. If not, the system must be repaired. The IAQ Standard does not require the installation of new HVAC equipment to achieve this temperature range.
A764 – Requires every public school in the state to be equipped with a panic alarm for use during a security emergency.
The alarm would be linked to local law enforcement as well as an exterior emergency light which would illuminate when the alarm button is pressed. The state, through the Schools Development Authority, would incur costs associated with installation of these panic alarms. This legislation has passed both houses in previous sessions only to be vetoed by the governor. It is the hope of the sponsors that the new governor will be more receptive to this proposal. NJSBA supports this bill.
A3504 – Expands summer meal program to all school districts with 50 percent or more of students eligible for free or reduced price meals.
This bill requires every school district in which 50 percent or more of the students are eligible for free or reduced price meals under the National School Lunch Program or the federal School Breakfast Program to become a sponsor of the federal Summer Food Service Program.
The bill requires each school district, no later than one year after the date of enactment of this bill into law, to submit a plan for sponsorship of the federal Summer Food Service Program in a district required to establish such a program. Based on the plan submitted by the school district to the state Department of Agriculture, the bill requires that such school district becomes a sponsor no later than two years following the enactment of this bill into law. The bill permits the state Department of Agriculture to grant a waiver from the sponsorship requirement to a school district under certain conditions.
The Summer Food Service Program is the federal program that reimburses sponsors for administrative and operational costs to provide meals for children 18 years of age and younger during periods when they are out of school for 15 or more consecutive school days. It is funded by the United States Department of Agriculture and administered by the state Department of Agriculture.
Locally, approved sponsors, including school districts, run the Summer Food Service Program. Each sponsor provides free meals to a group of children at a central site such as a school or a community center. Sponsors receive payments from the United States Department of Agriculture through their state agencies for the meals they serve and for their documented operating costs. The Summer Food Service Program is the single largest federal resource available for local sponsors who want to combine a feeding program with a summer activity program.
A3506 – Requires a Breakfast After the Bell program in all schools with 70 percent or more of students eligible for free or reduced price meals.
This bill requires a public school in which 70 percent or more of the students are eligible for free or reduced price meals under the National School Lunch Program or the federal School Breakfast Program to establish a Breakfast After the Bell program in the school. Under current law, a school with 5 percent or more of those eligible students must have a school lunch program, and a school with 20 percent or more of those eligible students must have a school breakfast program.
The bill requires each school district to adopt a plan for establishment of a Breakfast After the Bell program for all grades at each school in the district required to establish such a program within one year after the effective date of the bill. The district is required to develop a plan and have it adopted by the school board. Within six months after the effective date of the bill, each school district is required to notify the N.J. Department of Agriculture and the N.J. Department of Education, of the plan, once it is adopted. Any school district currently providing a school Breakfast After the Bell program for all grades at each school would not be required to adopt a new plan. The bill also permits a public school to establish a paid Breakfast After the Bell program for students not eligible for free or reduced price meals.
An appropriation to the N.J. Department of Agriculture by the state each fiscal year is required in order to provide the state share for the Breakfast After the Bell program established under the bill.
Numerous studies document that childhood hunger impedes learning and can cause lifelong health problems. In New Jersey, tens of thousands of children suffer from hunger each year, with nearly 540,000 students living in families eligible to receive free or low-cost school meals.
New Jersey should implement measures to increase participation in school breakfast, and Breakfast after the Bell is an effective program to accomplish that objective. By doing so, it would help remove a major barrier to learning by providing children the nutrition they need to succeed in school. NJSBA supports the bill.