WOOD RIVER JCT. — The Chariho Regional School District has applied for a $100,000 grant from the Champlin Foundations to convert an under-used classroom at the middle school into a fitness center.
The proposal, submitted by middle School Principal Gregory Zenion, cites research showing that students who are physically fit also perform better academically.
“Taking advantage of students' natural inclination to exercise more in a fitness center equipped with state-of-the art equipment, we're confident that our students will become more physically fit, will perform better academically, and will develop lifelong wellness habits,” Zenion’s proposal states.
Superintendent of Schools Barry Ricci agreed that there is a link between physical fitness and learning.
“Our newest proposal to the Foundations attempts to capitalize on research which shows that students who are physically fit perform at higher achievement levels,” he said. “With assistance from the Champlin Foundations, we hope to establish a fitness center at the middle school, along with a pubic relations campaign to encourage our students to think about their personal well-being.”
The middle school has a gymnasium, but no fitness equipment. The new facility would complement Chariho’s district-wide wellness initiative by encouraging more students to participate in fitness and wellness programs.
“When asked as part of our internal research for this proposal, 83.1 % of our students indicated that they would be more likely to actively participate in a physical education class if they had access to the equipment that would be traditionally available in a middle school fitness center,” the proposal reads.
At the April 10 School Committee meeting, Ricci explained that in addition to equipment, the grant would cover modifications to the classroom.
“We’ve built into this grant all of the equipment that would be necessary for the room; rubber flooring mirror for the walls,” he said.
Richmond member Murat Dymov asked how the district would pay to repair or replace the equipment.
“At some point, I’m assuming if this goes through and we get that room for the kids, at some point, that equipment will have to be replaced, and it’s not cheap equipment - thousands of dollars for one piece of equipment,” he said. “So where would that money come from?”
“You would have to budget for it, or you would seek other outside funding,” Ricci replied. “We do the same thing with the fitness center at the high school.”
A portion of the proposed grant would also fund a public information campaign, headed by middle school assistant principal Mary Beth Florenz and a new Student Fitness Advisory Committee. The school’s physical education teachers would receive training in the best uses of the new fitness center, which would also be available to teachers and staff.
“Training will be provided for teachers of physical education and health to reveal best practice in the use of a dedicated middle school fitness center,” the proposal states. “Finally, the fitness center will be made available to staff before and after hours to encourage employee wellness.”