Nine Hall County schools were recognized nationally by the Alliance for a Healthier Generation’s Healthy Schools Program.
Gold: Spout Springs School of Enrichment
Silver: McEver Arts Academy
Bronze: Chestnut Mountain Creative School of Inquiry, Chicopee Woods Elementary, Friendship Elementary, Lanier Elementary, Riverbend Elementary, Wauka Mountain Multiple Intelligences Academy, White Sulphur Elementary
Right by the front door of Spout Springs School of Enrichment is a vending machine wrapped in kraft paper; on it, student signatures are scrawled across it, promising to make healthy choices. The machine’s only option is bottled water.
“It’s a better school for our kids, and a better environment for our staff,” said Tom Adam, physical education teacher at the school.
In only three years, Spout Springs has been recognized by the Alliance for a Healthier Generation at both the bronze and silver levels of the Alliance’s Healthy Schools Program. This year, the elementary school brought home gold, one of only six schools nationwide to do so.
And not only is it one of six schools at the gold level this year, Spout Springs is the first school in the Southeast to receive gold since the Alliance’s Healthy Schools Program started in 2006.
“Prior to this year, there were only four gold schools in the nation,” said Jacob Weiers, wellness coordinator for the Hall County School District. Both Weiers and Adam are in Washington D.C. to accept the award today. “Two of the schools that are here are repeating gold status, so in essence, there are eight schools in the nation that have ever reached this award.”
Spout Springs was at the silver award level in 2013.
“I’m extremely proud,” Weiers said. “The accomplishment is fantastic, and it’s one that is an extreme honor, but to see all the steps along the way that have happened has made me very, very proud of the school.”
Adam credits a combined team effort from the school staff, students, parents and community members.
“Together, we all achieve more,” he said. “I couldn’t be prouder to be the physical education teacher at Spout Springs. Our kids are all involved in it. We have a great wellness team. We have a healthier lunchroom. We have the healthiest lunchroom. I believe it’s one of the healthiest in the nation, but definitely the healthiest in the state, and I’m proud of that.”
School activities include “brain breaks,” when students and teachers take a few minutes in class to get up and move around. Recess and gym time are daily activities. Projection screens in the lunchroom showcase nutrition information.
“We eat fruit in the cafeteria and we come out to do morning exercise for 15 minutes,” student Carmyn Williams said. “We bring healthy snacks. Even at home, we still eat healthy stuff. It’s a healthy school.”
For birthdays, the school celebrates monthly birthdays with special smoothies in the cafeteria.
“Parents have been very creative,” said Principal Arlene Thomas. “On one little boy’s birthday, his parents sent in buckets of chalk and the class went outside. Some parents have donated a class book on a child’s birthday.”
Not only do the school’s wellness initiatives encompass students, but teachers get in on the act. Staff wellness programs are offered, including dance, yoga and group walking exercises.
“A lot of Fortune 500 companies spend a lot of money trying to figure out how to raise morale in their workplace,” said Adam. “Yet, these wellness initiatives and the Alliance for a Healthier Generation has helped us do it for free.
“For years and years, people have talked about, ‘How do we increase our test scores? Discipline is a problem; how do we discipline?’” he continued. “And here we are doing it with wellness initiatives. Plus, our teachers are the stars of this. They have done a fantastic job.”
Spout Springs isn’t the only Hall County school being recognized at a national level; McEver Arts Academy received a silver-level award.
Chestnut Mountain Creative School of Inquiry, Chicopee Woods Elementary, Friendship Elementary, Lanier Elementary, Riverbend Elementary, Wauka Mountain Multiple Intelligences Academy and White Sulphur Elementary were all bronze-level winners.
“We just found out Georgia is second in the nation in nationally recognized schools,” said Adam, saying Texas has the most schools being recognized. “We’re tied with North Carolina. ... I remember when we weren’t even close to first.”
Per information from www.healthiergeneration.org, 35 percent of Georgia youth are either overweight or obese, making the state the 10th most obese state for children.
Earlier in September, Spout Springs was also a platinum recipient on Gov. Nathan Deal’s SHAPE Honor Roll, along with Chestnut Mountain Creative School of Inquiry, Flowery Branch Elementary, Riverbend Elementary, Sugar Hill Elementary, Wauka Mountain Multiple Intelligences Academy, White Sulphur Elementary and East Hall, North Hall and South Hall middle schools.
Friendship Elementary was a gold school on the SHAPE Honor Roll; East Hall High was a bronze recipient.
Of the 25 Georgia schools recognized nationally this year by the Alliance for a Healthier Generation, nine come from the Hall County district.
The Alliance for a Healthier Generation was formed in 2006 by the American Heart Association and the Clinton Foundation. It recognizes schools following healthy initiatives via its Healthy Schools Program.
Spout Springs may have achieved the gold standard, but for Adam, it’s an ongoing process that’s not quite done yet.
“We’re gold, and we feel like we’ve done a lot,” he said. “The message to Spout Springs is – what’s next? We’re not done yet.”