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Healthy children bring in money

New P.E. program improved kids health and scores big grant

Posted: October 3, 2008 9:35 p.m.
Updated: December 5, 2008 5:00 a.m.

Sierra Vista students climb the rock wall in the school's fitness center.

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The new physical education program at Sierra Vista Junior High is paying off with increased student fitness scores and a $226.000 grant.

Sierra Vista has received a $226,000 Carol M. White Physical Education Program grant, one of the most prestigious federal awards for a physical education program. Sierra Vista is one of only 96 winners throughout the United State and six in California.

The Canyon Country school will use the grant to fund a program the P.E. staff calls "No Child Left on Their Behinds." The program helps the school move away from the former physical education emphasis on sports to a focus on wellness that will serve students their entire lives.

Equipment to be purchased by the grant will help P.E. instructors monitor each student's fitness level and progress. Teachers will be able to scan results from a student's heart rate monitor to determine the level of fitness and the extent of student effort in relationship to that fitness level, making PE grades much more objective.

Equipment will be added to the school's fitness center to encourage students to exercise and to monitor student heart rates. The total grant amounts to $260,000 when $34,000 in matching funds is included. Those include in-kind donations from the William S. Hart Union High School District as well as four elliptical trainers with a value in excess of $17,000 donated by a local father whose children have gone through Hart district schools.

P.E. Department Chair George Velarde wrote the grant and will oversee its implementation.

Sierra Vista has already been recognized by the President's Council on Physical Fitness and Sports and the President's Challenge as a Physical Activity and Fitness Demonstration Center.

Student scores on state fitness tests have documented the "new P.E." program's success over the past several years. Scores reflect the percentage of students in the Healthy Fitness Zone on a number of state tests, starting with adoption of the new program in the 2003-04 school year, compared to the most recent results for the 2007-08 year.

"Over the last five years, our fitness scores have improved in every category of the state fitness scores," Velarde said. "More importantly, our fitness scores are higher than the state average."

The number of students who achieved all six of the state fitness standards increased by 25.8 percent over the four-year period.

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