Fitness centers open at Haywood high schools

By Jessi Stone | Feb 18, 2013
Photo by: Jessi Stone Luke Evans, a senior at Central Haywood High School, works out Thursday at the school's new fitness center.

Haywood County Schools are working toward improving physical education programs by opening new fitness facilities at Pisgah and Central Haywood high schools.

A ribbon-cutting ceremony for the fitness centers will be held at 1 p.m. March 7 at the Pisgah High School gymnasium.

“We’re happy to introduce our latest accomplishment to the public and to those who helped bring this project to realization,” said Natalie Boone, PEP grant director. “The ribbon-cutting ceremony for the fitness rooms marks the launch of a new era for physical education.”

The new high-school fitness facilities include about 900-square feet of workout space and feature many popular amenities and equipment for students to utilize: treadmills, ellipticals, rowers, bikes; Jacob’s ladder (as seen on “The Biggest Loser”); training areas for class or group workouts like yoga, Insanity, P90X and Zumba; strength-training equipment like weighted bars, dumbbells and kettlebells. The centers also include a big-screen TV and sound system.

The new fitness centers are part of the physical education program enhancement being implemented across the county through the Mountain ROADS (Reducing Obesity via Activity and Diet for Students) project. The Mountain ROADS project is fully funded by the Carol M. White PEP Grant, which is a federal grant that is designed to initiate, expand, or enhance physical education programs for students in kindergarten through twelfth grade.

Haywood County Schools received the three-year grant for about $1.68 million in 2011. Boone said the two fitness centers cost a total of $63,000. Tuscola High School would receive its new fitness center during the final year of the grant. A school has to follow a certain checklist before getting approved for the federal grant funding. Part of that checklist is implementing a new P.E. class.

“It’s a fitness lifetime course and Central and Pisgah were ready to implement the course this year,” Boone said.

Central Haywood Principal Jeff Haney said the school's first-year P.E. teacher Bronson Gross was working on getting the fitness class up and running for next year in the new fitness center.

"This gives our students the option and the opportunity to understand what it means to be fit and what it takes to stay fit," he said. "If we can keep them active, their brain will be more active as well."

“Right now the only requirement is to to have ninth-grade P.E.,” Boone said. “Our goal is to encourage students to take P.E. more often.”

She hopes the new equipment will make that happen. The school system is in its second year of implementing the fitness grant and plans to do one major improvement each year using the federal dollars.

Gross said he looked forward to implementing nutrition, Zumba, resistance training and Crossfit training into his new class.

"I'm excited about it. I'm looking forward to making them sweat," he joked.

Part of the grant money was used in the first year to put a new K-12 P.E. curriculum in place. The school system also wanted all schools to be on a level playing field as far as workout equipment. While many of the schools have their own equipment, other large pieces are shared within the county for a two-four week period because of storage space shortages.

At the middle-school level, the school system is placing orders for a Foundation Fitness program, and Boone said the schools are placing orders for that equipment now.

Elementary-aged students received a RailYard fitness system, which is an obstacle course and a “Heart Adventure” challenge course that teaches students how the human heart works as the walk or crawl through the course.

Boone and the schools’ P.E. teachers are responsible for collecting a lot of data during the grant period to report back to the federal government. While it is time-consuming, it provides a better look at how the district is doing.

“We are making some progress and showing some growth,” she said.

Students who engaged in 60 minutes of daily physical activity increased from 10 percent after year one to 56 percent at the end of year two. Students who achieved age-appropriate cardiovascular fitness levels are up to 51 percent compared to the base rate of 42 percent. Students who consumed fruit two or more times per day, and vegetables three or more times per day increased from 5 percent to 48 percent.