All of the buildings and campuses in the Meramec Valley R-III School District will become smoke free in July 2013.

New rules adopted at the April 18 school board meeting mean that all buildings, playing fields and other grounds will be tobacco-free beginning at the start of new employee contracts in 2013.

Reaching the decision to ban smoking and other tobacco products was a two-stage process that involved a 20-member subcommittee representing the district buildings.

The subcommittee recommendations were reviewed by the 35-member School Health, Wellness and Nutrition Council, which endorsed the recommendations and asked the school board to adopt them.

The new smoke-free policy is part of the goal of improving the health of district children and staff.

Before putting a new policy in place, the subcommittee asked the district to give strong consideration to employees who smoke. Committee recommendations said August 2012 was not a viable date to start the new program due to respect for current smokers and the difficulty that smokers have in trying to stop.

The most practical time to implement the new rule is July 2013, the beginning of the new contract year.

Following recommendations of the subcommittee, the district will offer programs to help employees stop smoking. The committee noted that it often takes more than one attempt for a smoker to be successful in quitting smoking.

Giving ample notice to people who visit the district campuses also was considered.

The committee recommended that the district use a variety of methods of informing the public of the tobacco-free decision and repeat the process several times.

The School Health, Wellness and Nutrition Council is made up of health professionals, school administrators, nutrition employees, teachers and school board members. The council oversees a range of policies and activities that affect the health and wellness of district students and staff.