Bexley City Schools District officials will begin collecting student body mass index (BMI) - a measure of body fat based on height and weight - in the fall.

Bexley City Schools District officials will begin collecting student body mass index (BMI) - a measure of body fat based on height and weight - in the fall.

Ohio law requires school districts to assess body mass index beginning this year, Bexley Superintendent Mike Johnson said. The requirement is part of the "Healthy Choices for Healthy Children" bill intended to decrease and prevent childhood obesity in Ohio schools. State law requires districts to report an average for each grade level.

Anne Hyland, director of curriculum and instruction for Bexley City Schools, said the state is requiring students to be assessed in kindergarten, third, fifth and ninth grade.

Hyland said the district already has some initiatives in place that will make gathering the information a little easier.

"We are trying to do this in a way that is not disruptive to the classroom and children," Hyland said. "It needs to be information that is collected in relative privacy."

Kindergartners already participate in an assessment in the fall where they receive vision and hearing assessments. Height and weight data will be collected at the same time, Hyland said.

Students in third and fifth grades also have hearing and vision screenings in the fall, Hyland said. The BMI data can be collected at that time.

To go along with the assessments, district officials plan to incorporate some information about body mass index into the health curriculum.

"We don't want students making incorrect judgments about the information," Hyland said. "We are worried students might think they are too heavy. All these children are growing. They are supposed to get stronger and taller."

District officials hope to add the information into the curriculum for the current school year. Hyland said students learn about ecosystems in science class and how plants and animals need certain things to grow. The BMI discussion would easily fit in, she said.

Hyland said the state of Ohio provided school districts a letter with a BMI chart. District officials will make a dot on the chart where height and weight meet and send a letter home to parents. The district will provide the same information to the state, she said.

"We keep the same information without the kids' name and turn it into the Ohio Department of Health," she said.

Students will not be provided the BMI information, Hyland said, adding it is important for parents to have the information and be able to put it into context for their children.

Parents can also elect not to receive the information.

They will be notified the height and weight information will be gathered with the vision and hearing screenings. Unless parents approve, the information will not be sent to them, she said.

"They have to opt in, as opposed to opting out," Hyland said.

School board member Carol Fey said she supported the district's focus on improving the health of students and the community but wanted to be sure the process was not invasive. Fey said she is confident student privacy will be protected.

"I think that the plan addresses the need for student privacy," she said. "In honesty I wish there was a way to encourage as much participation as possible, I'm a little concerned that we will have people avoid the testing process."

Fey said a parent has to sign a permission slip in order for a child to be tested.

"A parent has to authorize the test," Fey said. "It would be nice to have as much comprehensive information as possible so that we can use the information accurately and positively to address nutritional information in the district."