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Friendship Elementary putting weight on wellness program
Child obesity and nuitrition are part of the focus
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Teachers at Friendship Elementary are replacing classroom chairs with exercise balls as part of a new wellness program.

The school recently began an initiative that couples its academics with a focus on health and wellness.

Friendship Principal Berry Walton gave the Hall County school board an update at the Monday work session.

“I hope that this will become a program of choice,” he told the board. “Our goals are to focus on childhood obesity, nutrition and academic performance.”

Walton said childhood obesity is a growing epidemic. Georgia has the second-highest rate of childhood obesity in the United States.

“About 24 percent of third-graders are obese in the state,” he said. “We’re starting to see elementary school students with Type II diabetes, not Type 1, Type II.”

Friendship developed a committee last summer to research programs and best practices.

The school recently implemented strategies to improve nutrition such as offering healthier snacks. At a Valentine’s Day party, a teacher served smoothies rather than candy, Walton said.

The staff are also learning about fitness. Twice a week about 20 teachers work out with a personal trainer after school.

At the meeting, Walton showed the board members a Pilate ball, which is being used for classroom seating.

“It’s called active sitting,” he said, adding that it helps strengthen core muscles.

The school will measure their success using Fitnessgram, a district wide program that provides a fitness measure for each child. The school will also evaluate test scores, Walton added.

Down the road, Walton said the school hopes to add after-school activities such as karate, dance and gymnastics for a fee.

Superintendent Will Schofield said it has been exciting to watch the initiative build.

“We look forward to seeing where this takes us,” Schofield said.

In other business, the school board heard an update from the Early Language Development Center, established last year.

Lois Myers, who heads the center and is principal at Lyman Hall Elementary School said the program serves at-risk language students.

The center is housed in the former Jones Elementary School, and students learn half of the day in English and half of the day in Spanish.

She said students are progressing well, but a longer immersion experience will help students become more successful when they get to high school. The school is hoping to add pre-kindergarten and Head Start programs next year.

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