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Pilot fitness program comes to Hall schools
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It's time for Hall County students to get healthy.

The state board of education passed a new physical education requirement earlier this month, and Hall County Schools is one of five systems chosen to pilot the program this fall.

"Within the last week, I got a call from the state department to be a part of this, and right now we know very little about what that will look like," Hall County Schools Superintendent Will Schofield said. "It'll
target K-12 students and most likely be incorporated into the P.E. classes."

Gov. Sonny Perdue signed the Student Health and Physical Education Act in April 2009, which requires all students in a P.E. course from first grade to their senior year to have an annual fitness assessment starting during the 2011-12 school year. A program called Fitnessgram, which encourages children to form healthy nutrition and physical activity habits, was chosen by a committee.

"It sets goals for individual students to achieve," said Therese McGuire, program specialist for Georgia's Department of Education health and physical education office. "It's not children against children, and there's no bell curve."

Fitnessgram tests each student's aerobic capacity, flexibility, muscular strength, muscular endurance and body composition. Students can either fall in the Healthy Fitness Zone or the Needs Improvement category for each of the five fitness areas. Some school systems have already implemented Fitnessgram, but this move will bring the program statewide.

"The Arthur Blank Foundation will pay the costs of gearing up these initial five systems, which is exciting because the other 175 in Georgia will probably have to do it on their own," Schofield said. "It is extremely meaningful to have support that otherwise wouldn't be there."

With increasing numbers of child obesity, the program comes at the right time.

"For decades we've been able to see what's happening with the health of our youngsters as they're becoming more sedentary," Schofield said. "A lot of data suggests that if we're not careful, this could be the first generation of America where we leave our children in a situation where their life expectancy is lower than their parents'."

With an emphasis on reading and math curriculum, schools have moved away from personal wellness and fitness goals.

"We've got them in chairs for six or seven hours a day, and although preparing for a career is very important, so is quality of life and balance," Schofield said. "People forget that humans are systems and that people who are healthy think more clearly and are more productive."

The new program is a positive change for P.E. programs overall, he said.

"It's a move away from team sports and games to a wellness and lifelong fitness emphasis," Schofield added. "That's where we need to be."