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Mike Humphreys, Instructional Specialist for Health/Physical Education and Family Life Education, Alexandria City Public Schools

Under the recently reauthorized Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA), there is much greater flexibility offered to school districts as to how they spend their Title IV, Part A dollars. For the first time schools and districts are able to allocate funding to enhance the “health and well-being” of the students they serve. This directly aligns with ESSA’s claim to be more supportive of the “whole child,” instead of simply pushing increased test scores. Some school districts have been able to claim these funds in the name of health/physical education initiatives, and I’m very proud to say that Alexandria City Public Schools in Virginia is one of them.

What this took on my end was developing positive relationships with my colleagues at the Central Office and constantly pestering the financial gatekeepers so they would know I was in search of extra funding. I would routinely check-in with our Grants Coordinator, for instance, to see if he knew of any emerging opportunities which might allow for dollars in my direction. Once he had input into the Title IV grant and its destination, he was happy to contact me and shut me up for a while!

We are planning a three-pronged attack for spending this money and impacting students’ general health-related understanding. First, I’m able to purchase heart rate monitors and the latest software in the field to give students at four Title I schools extra motivation to get and stay active. Teachers will be able to project real-time readings for heart rate and other measurements pertaining to student activity levels. I’m also able to train the teachers on how to use this cutting –edge equipment. Second, we’re going to have 1st, 2nd, and 3rd grade teachers at these schools trained in the “Catch a Rainbow Everyday” nutritional program. This will allow them to reach their students with weekly content regarding the importance of fruit and vegetable consumption, among other nutritional messaging. Funding will help to supply a colorful variety of vegetables for the students to sample while they learn how fruits and vegetables help them grow into healthy adults who enjoy a balanced diet. And finally, our division’s Positive Behavioral Interventions and Supports (PBIS) program will be used to support these nutrition and fitness efforts to encourage healthy habits. Students will receive incentives for participation in lessons, activities and challenges that promote healthy eating habits and encourage movement.

As student health and wellness are finally finding the spotlight in the K-12 school setting, ESSA’s spending flexibility is serving up just what the country needs. Our students must be taught how important it is that they are physically active and committed to their own well-being. We in ACPS are confident that these initiatives will combine to move the needle related to the growth of our students’ health and physical literacy. We consider ourselves lucky to have been able to secure these funds, and we have already begun the planning to utilize next year’s increased allocation!

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