Polaris Local Wellness Policy
Polaris Charter Academy
Local Wellness Policy
Established July 2011, Updated March 2016
Federal Public Law 108.265 Section 204 (the federal Child Nutrition and WIC Reauthorization Act of 2004) includes a provision requiring all school districts participating in any federally funded child nutrition program to establish a locally developed school wellness policy by the beginning of the 2006-2007 school year.
The federal law requires that, at minimum, the local school wellness policy include:
- Involvement of parents, students, representatives of school food service, the school board, school administrators and the community in the development of the school wellness policy.
- Goals for nutrition education, physical activity, and other school-based activities designed to promote student wellness
- Nutrition guidelines for all food available on each school campus during the school day.
- Assurance that guidelines for reimbursable meals will not be less restrictive than federal regulations and guidance issued by the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA)
- A plan for measuring the implementation of the local wellness policy and designation of one or more persons in the district or at each school to oversee the implementation of the adopted wellness policy.
Polaris Charter Academy became its own School Food Authority in July 2011, and was previously within the scope of the Chicago Public Schools School Food Authority.
The Polaris Local Wellness Policy was developed by the Health and Wellness Committee, composed of teachers, administration, and parents.
Polaris Charter Academy
The mission of Polaris Charter Academy (PCA) is to educate students to be self-motivated, creative, critical thinkers, with the ultimate goal of shaping life-long learners and citizens with a strong sense of personal and civic responsibility. Polaris opened in August 2007 with 6 classrooms of 25 students each in Kindergarten through 2nd grade. Each year, an additional 50 students have been added through the addition of the next grade. Today, Polaris has 450 students in grades K-8.
As Chicago’s first Expeditionary Learning School, Polaris develops Learning Expeditions as an in-depth, hands-on approach to teaching social-studies and science. Students conduct fieldwork, learn from experts, work collaboratively and create authentic, high-quality final products for audiences beyond the classroom.
Polaris embraces wellness and nutrition through Learning Expeditions, daily recess, weekly movement and physical education. In addition, Polaris provides students with a healthy, tasty breakfast and lunch program, complemented by a daily healthy snack. Wellness and nutrition are also emphasized by Polaris staff, both verbally and by setting an example by teacher and administration food choices.
Requirement I: Involvement of school and community stakeholders in developing the wellness policy
Head of School
- Polaris engaged the parent association, teaching staff, students, school leadership, and lunch provider in the development of the wellness policy.
- Polaris kindergarteners engage with wellness experts, including nutritionists, dentists, physical trainers and pediatricians in their annual expedition centered on health and wellness. Kindergarteners contribute to the wellness policy through the creation of a final product, specifically geared toward enhancing the wellness of the Polaris community.
Requirement II: Establishment of goals for nutrition education, physical activity and other school-based activities that promote student wellness
Director of Academics
Polaris Charter Academy is committed to providing Polaris students with nutrition education, consistent physical activity, and a safe learning environment. We will raise the consciousness of our students and the local community by involving families and outside speakers in the discussion of health and nutrition.
- All Polaris Kindergarten students conduct a trimester-long Learning Expedition focused on health and nutrition. The expedition includes the engagement of experts ranging from nutritionists, physical trainers, pediatricians and dentists.
- Polaris partners with their school lunch provider to have a Wellness Fair each year for all families, providing the opportunity for parents and students to learn about nutrition together, while sharing healthy, easy-to-make recipes.
- Through participation in the Fresh Fruit and Vegetable program, Polaris provides bi-monthly nutrition education specific to fruits and vegetables, encouraging students to taste new fruits and vegetables each week.
- Polaris launched a fresh produce program for all families in the fall of 2013, providing affordable, fresh fruits and vegetables, distributed at the school.
- Polaris provides 30 minutes of daily recess to all students, in grades K through 8, with Kindergarten students receiving an incremental 20 minute recess.
- Recess equipment (jump ropes, balls, basketball hoop, hula-hoops) are provided to encourage vigorous activity during recess.
- All students participate in 30 minutes of physical education, 4 days each week, in which students learn and participate in a range of athletic endeavors.
- Afterschool programs include, basketball, an earn-a-bike program and a running program; historically these programs have been fully enrolled.
Safe Routes to School
- Polaris encourages walking school bus routes and student participation in these routes on a daily basis.
- Polaris students participate in fieldwork, walking and taking public transportation when possible to field work locations.
Character and Culture
Polaris leadership, teachers, staff and students demonstrate a shared understanding of, and commitment to, the mission, vision and core values established by the founders. The commitment to character and culture is founded on the knowledge that a safe, productive environment is critical to learning and to the mental and physical health of our students.
The Five Points of Polaris are a key component to Polaris’ commitment to educating the whole child. Integrity, Compassion, Exploration, Critical Thinking, and Active Citizenship are our core values. These points are an integral part of our learning community and the culture of the school. Members of our community are given opportunities to honor others as Light Leaders for exemplifying one or more of the Points of Polaris.
Polaris employs a full-time social worker to provide additional support to our students and families. In addition, students in 4h through 8th grade attend annual workshops at the Robert Crown Center for Health Education, focused on topics specific to each age level.
- Polaris will provide a fresh produce program to parents, allowing them to purchase locally produced fresh fruits and vegetables at cost.
- Polaris will engage parents in the annual Wellness Night, providing parents the opportunity to learn new recipes and opportunities to exercise.
- Polaris will provide parent sessions, facilitated by a licensed social worker, on relevant topics, such as bullying, internet/media exposure, and single-parenthood.
Requirement III: Nutrition guidelines or food and beverages (available outside the school meal programs)
Head of School, establishment of Parent Handbook
Students who choose to bring lunch from home
- Students who chose to bring lunch from home must follow the Polaris nutrition guidelines, as outlined in the parent handbook. Only beverages such as: milk, water, 100% fruit or vegetable juice will be permitted.
- A list of prohibited items will be maintained in the school’s community handbook signed by all families at the beginning of each school year.
- All snacks in the school must either be listed on the healthy snacks list or meet Polaris’ nutrition guidelines.
- Birthday snacks are not allowed (cupcakes, cookies, cake); Polaris celebrates each student’s birthday at Community Circle.
- Polaris encourages all school based organizations to use non food items for fundraising.
- Any fundraisers including food must be approved by the school’s health and wellness committee to ensure their concurrence with the mission.
- Polaris will not promote vending in its school.
- All parent programming at Polaris will feature food that meets the school’s nutrition guidelines.
- Polaris will make every effort to educate parents on the importance of living a healthy lifestyle through: Wellness Night, fresh produce program, etc.
Requirement IV: Nutrition guidelines for child nutrition reimbursable meal programs
Director of Finance and Operations, in conjunction with food service provider
- Polaris will ensure compliance with the USDA regulations for the National School Lunch and Breakfast program
- Polaris will ensure that all students have a yearly lunch application on file, regardless of status.
- Polaris’ lunchroom will not accept any money during mealtimes to avoid stigma associated with status.
- Polaris uses student lunch ids that do not indicate lunch status in any way.
Food and Drink
- All school meals will meet or exceed nutrition requirements established by local, state and federal requirements.
- All food and drink served through the National School Lunch Program will meet Polaris’ food policy, or be making strides to meet the food policy.
- All food served by Polaris will model healthy choices that students should make outside of school. The school’s menu will feature healthy, culturally relevant options and not attempt to ‘hide’ healthy foods but rather continue to introduce differentiated healthy choices to students and promote their consumption. The school will not promote the serving of entrees that do not align with the healthy lifestyles principle, even if they meet the strict food requirements of Polaris.
Lunchroom Procedures and Environment
- Students will have a 30 minute lunch period.
- Lunch will be served between the hours of 11:00am-2:00pm.
- Students will wash their hands with anti-bacterial wipes or sanitizer before entering the cafeteria.
- Students will be encouraged to take a fresh fruit with every meal, and to eat it.
- Polaris will encourage participation in the breakfast and lunch programs through early opening hours, friendly and helpful lunchroom staff and yearly parent meetings.