Principal rewards students with dive into Jell-0 pool

FAIRBANKS, Alaska — He came. He saw. He plunged into a pool of blue Jell-O.

The principal of an Alaska elementary school Thursday kept a promise to students who met a reading goal by diving into a kiddie pool holding 140 gallons of gelatin, the Fairbanks Daily News-Miner reported.

North Pole Elementary School Principal Mark Winford, wearing a pink unicorn onesie, belly-flopped into the blue morass, made an encore dive, and exited along a trail of construction paper laid down to protect the floor.

“Anything short of breaking the law, we try to get them to read,” Winford said Friday.

The school participates in a national reading program called Accelerated Reader. Students choose books, read them and acquire points gauged by the books’ length and difficulty.

Students read 35,080 books. When the goal was met this week, the school scrambled to find gelatin.

A call to the district’s central kitchen revealed a supply of blue Jell-O that had not been incorporated into lunches after revised nutrition standards came out two years ago.

Amy Rouse, director of nutrition services, offered the supply to the school so it wouldn’t have to buy individual packets.

“I never knew that figuring out the volume of a kiddie pool for Jell-O was going to be part of my job,” Rouse said.

Winford is in his first year as principal. He made the promise in January at a quarterly reading rally. Extravagant rewards for meeting reading goals are not unprecedented. A previous principal dove into chocolate pudding.

As Winford prepared to jump, the children chanted, “Jump in, jump in.” In the excitement of the moment, Winford forgot to don his purple goggles.

“It was it was very disorienting,” he said. “I just had to focus on the task and be in the moment.”

Afterward, he changed out of his unicorn regalia, washed up and hurried to his next meeting — his annual year-end evaluation at school district offices in Fairbanks.

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