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Schools receive physical education grant

The Newton County School System received a special physical education grant this year and anticipates more awards from it the next two school years. Pictured in PE class are kindergarteners, from left, (front row) Analiese Meneguzzo, Dawson Schneider, Isaiah Lockhart and (back row) Gavin Parker exercising under the instruction of PE teacher Steven Joyce and his paraprofessional Lisa Bouchillon at the Newton County Theme School at Ficquett. Staff Photo: Sue Ann Kuhn-Smith

The Newton County School System received a special physical education grant this year and anticipates more awards from it the next two school years. Pictured in PE class are kindergarteners, from left, (front row) Analiese Meneguzzo, Dawson Schneider, Isaiah Lockhart and (back row) Gavin Parker exercising under the instruction of PE teacher Steven Joyce and his paraprofessional Lisa Bouchillon at the Newton County Theme School at Ficquett. Staff Photo: Sue Ann Kuhn-Smith

COVINGTON -- The Newton County School System is one of only 56 school districts in the nation and the only one in Georgia to receive a physical education grant this year.

NCSS received the Carol M. White Physical Education Program grant. The system received $408,951 for the 2012-13 school year and will receive an anticipated award of $131,729 for each of the following two school years.

"This grant moves us down the path of educating the whole child," said NCSS Superintendent Gary Mathews. "Healthy students make more successful learners in our classrooms."

Newton County is the only school district in Georgia to receive the PEP Grant in 2012 and one of only nine districts in Georgia to receive the grant since its inception in 2002, according to Kathy Garber, grants coordinator for NCSS. The system applied for the grant in May 2011 by submitting an 80-page application.

"Exercise and good nutrition make for happier, healthier, more attentive and more productive students," said U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan. "These grants will help students strengthen their bodies and in so doing, inspire their minds to confront the challenges that face them both inside the classroom and out."

Grant recipients must implement programs that help students make progress toward meeting their state standards for physical education. The programs must offer instruction in healthy eating habits and good nutrition.

Among the types of activities that the grants support is instruction in motor skills that support a lifelong healthy lifestyle and opportunities for professional development for teachers of physical education to stay abreast of the latest research and trends in the field of physical education.

The PEP grant will provide funds for the implementation of the Newton County HOPE (Health Optimizing Physical Education) program, which was designed as the result of three years of research and analysis of current programs and practices, conducted by physical education teachers from all of Newton County's elementary, middle and high schools, under the leadership of Garber.

Work began in 2009 in preparation for implementation of new Georgia Performance Standards for Physical Education and legislation requiring the annual administration of FitnessGram, a criterion-referenced fitness assessment, and BMI measurements beginning in fall 2011.

"A lot of progress has already been made toward reaching our ultimate goal of helping to produce fit and healthy adults who understand the importance of good nutrition and healthy eating habits," Garber said.

Steven Joyce, a PE teacher at the Newton County Theme School and PE Content Specialist, has worked with PE Content Leaders from elementary, middle and high schools to develop curriculum maps based on state standards health and PE, and curriculum manuals from nationally recognized, research-based curriculum programs were purchased for all the schools last year through a grant from the General Mills Covington Community Action Council, she said

"Teachers also completed training in administering the fitness assessment FitnessGram, which was administered to all PE students in Newton County and the State of Georgia in the spring," Garber said.

The HOPE project will be implemented through a partnership that includes the Newton County School System, Georgia State University, the Newton County Community Partnership, Covington YMCA, The Center for Community Preservation and Planning, Washington Street Community Center and the Newton County Chamber of Commerce, Health Department, Board of Commissioners and Recreation Commission.

The program is set to increase student awareness of healthy eating habits and good nutrition and how these affect their overall fitness; fitness education and assessment to help students understand, improve and maintain their physical well-being; instruction in a variety of motor skills and recreational and lifetime fitness activities; opportunities for students to develop positive social and cooperative skills; opportunities for professional development for HOPE teachers; and awareness among students, school staff, families and the community of the importance of exercise and good nutrition in maintaining a healthy lifestyle.