Healthy Schools

Denver students jump for world record

They’re still counting just how many people took part in the nationwide effort Tuesday to break the Guinness World Record for most people doing jumping jacks in a 24-hour period, but this much is certain:

Denver North High School students joined the national effort to beat a jumping jacks record.

At least 62 students and teachers at Denver’s North High School were doing them, along with at least one First Lady, who jumped in front of the White House.

The record is just over 20,000 jumpers.

Students throughout Colorado and across the United States were expected to take part in the assault on the jumping jacks record, spurred on by First Lady Michelle Obama, whose Let’s Move program has made battling childhood obesity her top priority.

“Doing jumping jacks is great because no equipment is needed,” said Jeff Taylor, chairman of the Governor’s Council for Physical Fitness in Colorado, and one of the participants at North. “We hope it shows kids they can do something active and fun like breaking a Guinness World Record.”

The North High event attracted students from two physical education classes, some special education students, members of the Junior ROTC and “a couple of stragglers we found in the hallway that needed to get some exercise,” said North assistant principal Kevin Bendjy.

It was held in the school’s new Sound Body Sound Mind fitness center, a state-of-the-art free weight and cardio studio that’s open for after-school exercise for students, faculty and community members. DPS now has eight such school-based fitness centers open to the community.

“Our goal is to get 150 adult members at each site,” said Eric Larson, coordinator of physical education for DPS – and a jumper. So far, about 25 adults have signed up to use the fitness center at North and school officials report 12-15 teen-agers are using it every day after school.

Larson said attendance at the four fitness centers that opened last year is up 500 percent now, and he expects the new centers – at North, West, Kennedy and MLK Jr., Early College high schools – to quickly draw a crowd. The other fitness centers are located at Denver Center for International Studies, Washington and Lincoln high schools, and Bruce Randolph School.

Leading the youngsters in 10 minutes of jumping jacks on Tuesday was Clayton Ellis, who normally teaches physical education at Aurora Central High School. But since that school wasn’t able to participate in the jumping jack challenge, he left his own students in the care of a student teacher and headed to North.

Ellis is a former national high school PE Teacher of the Year, and past president of the Colorado Association for Healthy, Physical Education, Recreation and Dance, one of the sponsors of the jumping jack event.

“You’re in the middle of a wave going to the White House! Doesn’t that sound cool?” Ellis asked the roomful of jumpers as she led them through warmups, then several rounds of jumping jacks.

“How many of you know who Jack LaLanne is?” he asked.

Not a single hand attached to a teenage body went up. So Ellis explained that LaLanne was an early proponent of physical fitness, and he shared with them a few LaLanneisms:

“Anything in life is possible if you make it happen.” “Your waistline is your lifeline.” “Better to wear out than rust out.”

How are you feeling?

With plan to focus on teen health, Adams 12 school district opens new clinic

PHOTO: Jasleen_kaur/Creative Commons

The Adams 12 school district, Colorado’s sixth-largest, will open its first school-based health clinic this fall at Thornton High School.

The new clinic will offer routine physicals, sick care and mental health counseling to the 1,675 students at Thornton High as well as another 1,000 students who take classes at the district’s career and technical education center on the same campus.

By providing a convenient source of health care, particularly for low-income students, advocates say school-based health centers help prevent and address health problems that can impede learning.

Statewide, the number of school-based health centers has grown over the last decade — from 40 in 2007 to 59 this fall.

Despite the overall upward trend, not all school-based health centers survive. For example, the clinic at Jefferson Junior-Senior High School, a high poverty school in the Jeffco district, closed its doors last spring.

A district official there said the nonprofit organization providing the health services, which were available to Jefferson students and other local residents, decided to depart because district security logistics made it difficult to keep the clinic open during evening and weekend hours.

In Adams 12, planning for the new clinic began in 2015. A district committee chose Thornton High to house the health center because of the high level of poverty in that area and because the campus, which also houses the Bollman Technical Education Center, serves the largest number of high school students in the district.

District spokesman Kevin Denke said the decision to focus on a teenage population stems from the fact that adolescents tend to see doctors less often than younger students and may be starting to engage in risky behaviors, such as sexual activity, alcohol use or drug use.

The neighboring Boulder Valley school district also has a school-based health clinic in the works, though it’s not expected to open until the fall of 2019. That clinic, the district’s first, will be located at the Arapahoe Campus, which houses Arapahoe Ridge High School and the district’s career and technical education center.

District officials said the clinic was originally slated to open earlier, but the launch was pushed back to align with a planned remodel of the career and technical education space.

In the meantime, the district will expand a dental care program that’s gradually ramped up at the Arapahoe Campus. Begun four years ago as a basic screening program that referred kids with cavities and other problems to area dentists, the program last year provided cleanings, fluoride treatments and sealants to 42 students at Arapahoe Ridge and two other district high schools.

This year, the program will offer the same services, plus treatment for minor cavities, to students from all district high schools. The goal is to serve 250 students by the end of the year.

Fighting hunger

No more cheese sandwiches: Denver restores hot lunches for students in debt

Students at Denver's Fairmont ECE-8 have a choice of fruits and vegetables for lunch. (Denver Post file photo)

Denver students will start the year off with lunch debts paid off and a new promise that falling behind on lunch payments will not mean a cold “alternative” meal.

The district announced the change this week.

“We will feed every kid, every day,” Superintendent Tom Boasberg wrote. “We know hungry kids aren’t the best learners.”

In some districts, including DPS, students who fall behind on lunch payments may be given alternative meals such as a cheese sandwich, or graham crackers and milk.

Boasberg said all kids will get regular hot-lunch options while payment issues are resolved and the district works on a long-term strategy.

In the last school year, Denver students had accumulated a balance of more than $13,000. The debt would be higher if some schools had not set aside money to help students.

According to the district, schools paid for more than 37,700 meals during the 2016-17 year.

The district said that donations raised by students through a nonprofit called KidsGiving365, and by Shift Workspaces, founded by Grant Barnhill, a parent of an incoming DPS student, will cover all the outstanding lunch debt of students in the district.

In DPS, all students receive free breakfast. Students who qualify for free lunch based on family income do not make payments and do not accrue debt.

For 2017-18, a family of four must earn less than $31,980 to qualify for free lunch, or less than $45,510 to qualify for a reduced price lunch.

The announcement from DPS reminds families that the application for free or discounted lunch can be submitted throughout the year, and that students are eligible regardless of immigration status.