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Schools receive fitness grant
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Newton County School System is one of only 56 school districts in the nation to receive the Carol M. White Physical Education Program grant in 2012. NCSS received $408,951 for the 2012-2013 school year and will receive an anticipated award of $131,729 for each of the following two school years.

According to Dr. Kathy Garber, grants coordinator for NCSS, 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.

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.

"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."

The PEP grant will provide funds for the implementation of the Newton County HOPE (Health Optimizing Physical Education) program. HOPE 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 Dr. Kathy 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," said Garber. "Steven Joyce, P.E. teacher at the Newton County Theme School and P.E. Content Specialist, has worked with P.E. Content Leaders from elementary, middle and high schools to develop curriculum maps based on State Standards Health and P.E. and Curriculum Manuals from nationally recognized, research-based Curriculum Programs were purchased for all the schools last year through a generous grant from the General Mills Covington Community Action Council. Teachers also completed training in administering the fitness assessment, FitnessGram, which was administered to all P.E. students in Newton County and the State of Georgia in the spring."

According to Garber, the HOPE project will be implemented in 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. Using data collected from student and teacher surveys identified State Standards where the greatest gaps and weaknesses existed and set goals and objectives for the project using the Comprehensive School Physical Activity Program model developed by the National Association for Sport and Physical Education.

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