Originally published July 5, 2019 in the Dubois County Herald.
By Leann Burke
When students and staff return to Ferdinand and Tenth Street elementaries this fall, they’ll be greeted by a new emphasis on health and wellness.
Both schools earned the Upgrade Grant from the Welborn Baptist Foundation of Evansville and will begin their planning years this fall. The grant is a $75,000 multi-year intervention that aims to facilitate change within schools by implementing the coordinated school health approach to develop healthy eating and active lifestyle behaviors among students, their families and school staff.
As part of the grant, schools establish a wellness committee headed by a wellness coordinator to oversee grant activities. That committee develops programs and initiatives that can be continued once the grant runs out and also plans a capstone project to promote health in the community. Schools are also encouraged to implement initiatives that promote health every day.
The Upgrade grant is popular among area schools. Several either currently receive or have received the Upgrade grant, formerly known as the Heroes grant.
At North Spencer and Southwest Dubois, each eligible school in the corporations has received the grant, as have Fifth Street Elementary, Holy Trinity Catholic School, Pine Ridge Elementary School and Cedar Crest Intermediate School.
Typically, the first year of the grant is used for professional development for teachers and school staff and for planning the community events and capstone project.
At Ferdinand Elementary, the staff plan to focus on amping up physical education offerings and launching the Super Food Heroes taste test program that the Welborn Baptist Foundation designed to encourage kids to try new vegetables and fruits. The taste test involves the school cafeteria serving a new fruit or veggie every month or so and cooking it in several different ways to offer students a chance to try it.
“Our action plan reflects the already established momentum of health and wellness being integrated into the school environment at Ferdinand Elementary,” Jennifer Blackgrove, Ferdinand Elementary’s grant coordinator, said via email.
Tenth Street Elementary staff in Jasper will also spend the coming year working on professional development around health and wellness, but their process will look a little different from the usual Upgrade grant process. Since Tenth Street will be merging with Fifth Street Elementary in the 2020-21 school year to become Jasper Elementary School, Tenth Street’s Upgrade committee has to wait to plan any big projects.
Although Tenth Street’s Upgrade committee is dealing with a lot of unknowns about the new facility, they still wanted to get started with the grant.
“The idea is to make it so that when we open the doors at the new school, we’ll be ready with the ball rolling,” said Kevin Schipp, Tenth Street’s grant coordinator.
The effort will also help make the merging of the two schools more seamless since Fifth Street earned the grant in 2012 back when it was still called the Heroes grant.
Part of the planning process for Tenth Street’s wellness committee will be looking at programs Fifth Street already has — such as the walking club — and figuring out how to implement them at Jasper Elementary. They also have ideas about how to make the new school building more wellness-friendly, including installing drinking fountains designed to easily fill water bottles.
Before they get too far into planning for the new school, however, Schipp said, they need to see a bit more of how it will be organized. For that, they’ll have to wait.
“There’s a lot of unanswered questions right now,” Schipp said.
In the meantime, Tenth Street teachers are turning their attention to the school’s physical education offerings. Tenth Street doesn’t have a designated physical education teacher on staff, so leading gym class falls to the classroom teachers.
This coming year, the Upgrade grant will be used to offer the teachers training on how to make the most out of gym class.
“We’re excited for the opportunity to learn,” Schipp said. “It’s an exciting time. We’re excited to get the grant and give our students more opportunities to learn the skills and healthy habits.”