Originally published March 16, 2022 by News21 KTVZ.com.

La Pine Elementary School is earning top accolades for its focus on student health, recently earning the 2022 Oregon School Wellness Award from the Oregon Department of Education.

The annual award is given to schools that display outstanding wellness policies and practices and programs that promote healthy behaviors in students and staff.

La Pine Elementary physical education teacher Jack Thomas nominated the school for the honor and is part of the school’s Wellness Team, which helped spearhead many changes over the years.

“This honor is a really big deal. It’s great recognition for how our school community cares for the whole child, including physical health, mental health and nutrition,” said Thomas, who loves helping students develop physical fitness and new skills. “I hope students come away from my classes understanding that physical activity is an important part of a healthy life and that lesson can stick with them.”

School-wide wellness efforts include large-scale changes, like the addition of a full-time school counselor to support student mental health, as well as changes to the school culture, like offering school-made smoothies as celebration treats (instead of cookies or cupcakes, for instance).

“This is a great honor and recognition for our staff members who have done so much in recent years to prioritize both physical and mental wellbeing of our students,” said Principal Patrick Flanagan.

For the 15th year in a row, the Oregon Department of Education, the Nutrition Council of Oregon, OregonAsk and the Oregon Dairy and Nutrition Council have teamed up to reward exemplary schools for activating their local wellness policies and creating and sustaining a culture of wellness for students and staff.

As part of the honor, La Pine Elementary will receive statewide recognition, a personalized plaque and custom banner, and a $2,500 award to be used to further nutrition, physical activity and wellness efforts within the school.

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