Pryor schools helping kids get fit
BY RHETT MORGAN World Staff Writer
Sunday, October 14, 2012
10/14/12 at 8:23 AM
PRYOR - For years, Laura Holloway taught physical education out of an elementary school cafeteria.
Nowadays, the longtime former coach is whipping an entire student body into shape with cutting-edge equipment and a mindset that merges scholarship and fitness.
"Really, this childhood obesity issue kind of brought something home to me," said Holloway, director of health and wellness for Pryor Public Schools. "I thought, 'What can we do in our district to make our kids and our staff healthy?' "
What's been done is impressive.
Thanks in large part to a nearly $1 million federal grant, the district is transforming itself into a lean, mean learning machine.
Climbing walls have been built at four elementary schools and the junior high. Partnerships have been formed to promote healthy lifestyles. And physiques are getting hard at a place called "The Rock," a $100,000 campus fitness center.
"It's a culture shift into how we get smarter," Holloway said.
"It starts with being healthy. We've kind of made that a priority."
The district's transformation, Holloway said, began after it adopted as its philosophy "The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People." The seventh habit is "Sharpen the Saw," which Holloway has enhanced into a fitness model.
Pryor is in the second year of a three-year Carol M. White Physical Education grant.
"She's been the driving force," Superintendent Don Raleigh said of Holloway. "I give her full credit. She has taken this, and it's taken a life of its own."
A converted wrestling room at the junior high, the "The Rock" is about 2,600 square feet of the latest in exercise technology. Pryor is among the first schools in the country to be fully equipped with the ECOFIT network platform, Holloway said. ECOFIT is a wireless system that communicates exercise progress via real-time digital media and mobile applications.
"We want to be one of those schools where people come in and say, 'We want to see what you're doing,' " Holloway said.
When students and faculty aren't climbing the walls - teachers, too, are getting fit - they are walking or biking to school, planting vegetable gardens and becoming involved with numerous programs, including a "Zero Hour" 7 a.m. fitness class for grades 10-12. OrganWise Guys is a prekindergarten through sixth grade health education curriculum sponsored by Blue Cross Blue Shield.
The district also hired a nutritionist and is using stability balls and mini-trampolines in some classrooms as a way for students to release pent-up energy.
Tamara Bryan, a second-grade teacher at Roosevelt Elementary School, estimated that the noise level in her classroom dropped by 15 percent the first day stability balls were introduced.
"I had reservations that the balls would cause a distraction to learning, but I have several students with ADHD/ADD and one with autism and I had to do something to help them concentrate," Bryan wrote in an email to Holloway. "The balls have done just that."
The fitness fever has extended into the community. Mayor Jimmy Tramel recently stopped drinking soda, started a walking regimen and began using a weighted Hula Hoop to trim his waistline, he said.
Tramel has lost about 12 pounds in two weeks.
"It's just really awesome to see the whole district wrap their hands around this and applying it to different parts of their lives," Holloway said. "We have great leadership. When you have great leadership, it always inspires people to do things they couldn't imagine doing."
Original Print Headline: Pryor Public Schools help kids get healthy
Rhett Morgan 918-581-8395
Pryor Junior High students Quince Nichols (left) and Chandler Ohlson work out in the new Pryor Public Schools fitness room made possible by a nearly $1 million grant. STEPHEN PINGRY / Tulsa World
Laura Holloway: "It's a culture shift into how we get smarter. It starts with being healthy."
Laurie Linihan helps Jason Nixon on the new climbing wall made possible by a nearly $1 million grant. STEPHEN PINGRY / Tulsa World
Pryor coach Kirk Emerine talks with junior high student Brady Keyes as he works out in the new fitness room. STEPHEN PINGRY / Tulsa World