By Ed Harris
Schools in Southington will get a little more active thanks to a grant from Anthem Blue Cross and Blue Shield.
The insurance company bestowed the school system with a $24,000 grant that will be used to help combat childhood obesity through the Physically Active Classrooms program. The program is a collaboration between the Southington school systems, the YMCA and Bradley Hospital.
“It truly is an epidemic in this country,” Anthem Blue Cross and Blue Shield VP of Sales Jim Augur said about childhood obesity. “We need to figure out ways to keep kids active.”
Augur said the Physically Active Classroom program will do its part to keep kids active. Dave Donnelly, a grant writer for the YMCA that helped secure the grant.
Physical education teacher Marcia Phelps helped pioneer the program in Southington and through her efforts a pilot program was established last year at Hatton School. The grant money will be used to help teach the teachers and staff how to utilize the programs and implement it throughout the district.
“For years and years I’ve wanted to get kids moving in schools,” Phelps said.
The program has attracted attention in Hartford, with Southington state Senator Joe Markley jumping on board and showing his support.
Markley, along with Miss Connecticut Emily Audibert, visited Hatton School last August to partake in an Active Classrooms presentation. During the presentation, Markley joined Audibert and Hatton students in active participation exercises, including acting out words on a card to show the difference between adverbs and verbs.
“It really is such a great thing you guys are doing,” Audibert told the organizers of the program, during a brief press conference Monday afternoon. Audibert was very supportive of the school further implementing the program.
Southington School Supt. Dr. Joseph Erardi is very supportive of the program and said it was a good way to a healthy activity in a classroom setting. He said the staff at Hatton was very supportive of the program and that it flowed into the lesson plans, causing no distractions.
“It’s a huge win, win,” Erardi said. “It’s hard to find anything on the downside of it.”
Phelps said the plan was to use the grant money to integrate the program throughout the district within the next three years.