Windward elementary schools win awards for health and fitness achievements

By: Melanie Yamaguchi

Cheers coming from bleachers aside Castle High School's athletic field Thursday were not only meant for elementary school students racing toward the track's finish line at the annual Windward District Fitness Meet, but were also for the district's public schools that promote such physical activity and nutritional guidance in its curriculum.

Lt. Gov. Shan Tsutsui and representatives from the state Departments of Health and Education awarded eight Windward elementary schools for their work on improving the health and well-being of their students. The schools achieved the highest scores in implementation of the DOE's Wellness Guidelines required of all public schools in Hawaii.

"There's so much research now that says that physical education and fitness plays a huge role in the ability to learn so that's why we're here," said Lea Albert, the Windward district complex area superintendent of the DOE. "We do this because we care about our young people's health and well-being."

The Wellness Guidelines includes standards for foods and beverages as well as goals for health education, physical education and other activities in support of a healthy school environment. Implementation is measured through an online survey called the Safety and Wellness Survey, jointly administered by the DOE and DOH. The winning schools implemented at least 90 percent of the Wellness Guidelines for the 2011-2012 school year. The average score for all Hawaii public schools was about 78 percent.

"They set an example by being fit and by making this part of their lifelong growth plan, their goals, the goals of the statehood," Albert said.

Schools that received recognition include Ahuimanu, Benjamin Parker, Heeia, Kaneohe, Kapunahala, Keolu, Laie and Blanche Pope Elementary Schools. They are among 50 public schools in the state that received awards and are eligible to apply for DOH grants of up to $8,000 per school to support implementation of Wellness Guidelines for the 2013-2014 school year. A total of $160,000 will be available for schools.

The Excellence in Wellness Awards is part of a larger effort by the DOE and DOH intended to improve overall health and wellness in the schools in order to reach higher academic achievement.

"Part of our goal is to keep them fit and to build a program that involves students from actually preschool all the way up through college and career readiness," Albert said. "Physical fitness and good health are the key to learning for us and they're the key to making our society viable, our community viable, our nation viable."

Approximately 30 percent of Hawaii children entering kindergarten are overweight or obese, according to the DOE, and Hawaii's public schools have direct contact with more than 80 percent of the state's children ages 5 through 17.

Lt. Gov. Tsutsui said partnerships and collaboration, like the one between the DOE and DOH, are important in promoting health and wellness at public schools across the state.

"I know that there's a lot of emphasis right now in the curriculum on student achievement," he said. "But really, I think student achievement and physical fitness does go hand in hand and so these are the types of opportunities we're going to look at to really try to enhance the student learning environment."

The following schools received Excellence in Wellness Awards:

1. Ahuimanu Elementary

2. Aiea Intermediate

3. Aliamanu Middle

4. Aliiolani Elementary

5. Benjamin Parker Elementary

6. Blanche Pope Elementary

7. Ernest Bowen de Silva Elementary

8. Gustave H. Webling Elementary

9. Hahaione Elementary

10. Heeia Elementary

11. Henry J. Kaiser High

12. Highlands Intermediate

13. Honowai Elementary

14. Horace Meek Hickam Elementary

15. Kaewai Elementary

16. Kalihi-uka Elementary

17. Kaneohe Elementary

18. Kanoelani Elementary

19. Kapolei Elementary

20. Kapunahala Elementary

21. Keaukaha Elementary

22. Keolu Elementary

23. King Kaumualii Elementary

24. King Liholiho Elementary

25. King William Lunalilo Elementary

26. Kipapa Elementary

27. Kohala Elementary

28. Kula Kaiapuni O Anuenue

29. Laie Elementary

30. Linapuni Elementary

31. Manana Elementary

32. Mililani High

33. Mililani Mauka Elementary

34. Mililani Waena Elementary

35. Mountain View Elementary

36. Palisades Elementary

37. Pauoa Elementary

38. Pearl City Elementary

39. Pearl Harbor Elementary

40. Pearl Ridge Elementary

41. Prince David Kawananakoa Middle

42. Pukalani Elementary

43. Samuel K. Solomon Elementary

44. Samuel Wilder King Intermediate

45. Waiakea High

46. Waiakeawaena Elementary

47. Waiau Elementary

48. Waikiki Elementary

49. William McKinley High

50. William P. Jarrett Middle

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