School board brings back the buzz for AHS students | AspenTimes.com

School board brings back the buzz for AHS students

Jennifer Davoren
Aspen Times Staff Writer

The buzz is back at Aspen High ? for now, anyway.

The Aspen School Board voted Monday night to partially lift its ban on caffeine sales on the school district campus. The board ruled that the AHS cafeteria will now be able to serve soda and coffee, but in a carefully monitored ratio ? 70 percent of all drinks served must be “healthy alternatives” to the 30 percent of caffeinated beverages sold.

The ratio will signal the start of an eventual phase-out of all caffeine sold at AHS, board members voted. Over the next three years, the percentage of soft drink sales will decrease 10 percent, leading to an eventual total ban on school-provided caffeine in 2005.

Monday’s vote came after a similar recommendation from the Health and Wellness Committee, an offshoot of the District Accountability Committee. Though this same committee previously supported the school board’s caffeine sales ban, which took effect on Sept. 9, its members met again last week to reassess public opinion on the issue.

Health and Wellness Committee member Heidi Houston told the board that fellow committee members have decided AHS should instead offer a variety of healthier options rather than stamp out all caffeine sales.

School board member Fred Peirce expressed his disappointment in the committee’s decision. The committee, Peirce recalled, was actually one of the first groups to petition the school board with anti-caffeine studies and research.

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“I’m disappointed that what we’re getting is a political solution [from the committee],” he said.

AHS Principal Kendall Evans said the sales ban has become an intense political debate among his charges. Students argue that they are old enough to make their own decisions ? and frequently make the right one, Evans said.

“If you talk to people who sell concessions … they’ll tell you that they sell more water than they do pop to high school kids,” he said. “Not all of them, but a lot of them, will make the best decisions.”

School board members were split on the issue. Member Jon Seigle, who was unable to attend Monday’s meeting, drafted a letter to the board voicing his support for the caffeine ban. While students opposed to the ban have argued that they have the right to choose their lunchtime beverage, Seigle stated that school district officials were responsible for making sure that choice is a healthy one.

“‘We are not talking about emancipated adults,'” Peirce read aloud from Seigle’s letter.

Seigle also wrote that caffeine was an addictive substance on par with tobacco, proven by the fact that one student protester told the school board that she had to “fuel up to function” in class each day.

School board president Augie Reno, however, pointed out that it was hard to take Seigle’s recommendation seriously ? Seigle owns a number of convenience stores that sell caffeine without hesitation, Reno said.

Board members Alice Davis and Jill Uris eventually made the motion that led to the “faze out” vote, which was supported by Reno. Peirce dissented on the 3-1 vote.

Though students may be disappointed with the eventual ban on soda, board members pointed out that AHS officials have done their best to find suitable alternatives to caffeine in the past few weeks of school.

“I think amazing things have been done by the cafeteria operator … that might not have been done before the ban,” Davis said.

[Jennifer Davoren’s e-mail address is jenniferd@aspentimes.com]

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