Eleven schools recognized for health initiatives
10/08/2013 - The Charleston Gazette. By Mackenzie Mays.
CHARLESTON - Despite West Virginia's child obesity epidemic, former President Bill Clinton has recognized 11 schools in the state for instituting health-conscience programs.
The Alliance for a Healthier Generation, founded by the American Heart Association and the Clinton Foundation, recently honored 267 schools across the country for working toward healthier school environments, including schools in Cabell, Kanawha and Putnam counties.
The Kanawha County Board of Education honored Chamberlain Elementary -- the county's sole school to receive the award -- during a special session Monday.
Chamberlain Elementary School has instituted a "Kids in Motion" pedometer program that tracks students' daily steps, and more physical fitness routines have been integrated into class time.
School employees are provided health-planning sessions with a registered nurse to develop individualized personal health goals, and parents receive health-based newsletters with advice, such as how to deal with picky eaters.
Chamberlain received a grant from Energy Corporation of America to implement the strategies, a representative from the school said Monday.
Nine Cabell County schools also received the title, in addition to Lakeside Elementary in Putnam County, which was recognized for offering both students and teachers short breaks for physical activity throughout the day.
While the state tops most lists for obesity-related diseases in the country, the state Department of Education has made a push in recent years to target child obesity rates.
And according to research at West Virginia University, the childhood rates are dropping.
In 2012, the percentage of fifth-graders with high blood pressure dropped from one in four to one in five from the previous year, according to WVU. The fifth-grade obesity rate decreased from 29 percent to 28 percent, and the kindergarten rate dropped from 18 percent to 15 percent.
Also at Monday's school board meeting, Kanawha County Schools' attorney Jim Withrow advised how to handle the growing issue of cyber-bullying.
School board member Becky Jordon says it's a "big problem" in the county.
"There are a lot of kids who don't want to go to school after kids go cuckoo on their phones and write mean stuff. They have to be punished," she said. "I think it's a problem, but I don't know what everyone here in this room can do. You can't control every child's phone. It's a parent's job, and it's not being done."
Kanawha County requires teachers to undergo training dealing with bullying that happens online, and all students must take "cyber-safety lessons" each year, according to Leah Sparks, assistant superintendent for instruction in charge of technology.
"Now, we're really accountable for every student. ... We're doing what we can to be proactive and bring the issues forward," she said. "My stance is that the real world isn't completely locked down, so we have to make sure we're doing what we can to prepare them for [that]. We're trying to do what we can through these trainings to bring awareness and teach them to be socially responsible online."
The board will meet again Oct. 17 in regular session to discuss the school calendar plans for next year.