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Depew students look to add more fitness time in new school year schedules

Alexandria Fazio and Nick Schielke are determined this school year to be among Depew High School students who meet daily recommended physical fitness guidelines.

"I want to be healthier," said Schielke, who hopes to make the varsity football team as a lineman this fall and looks to spend as much time as his schedule allows in the new 4,000-square-foot high school fitness center.

The center opened last May, along with a smaller but similar center in Depew Middle School and a wellness center in two converted classrooms at Cayuga Elementary School.

Each center is a cornerstone of a $1.1 million federal grant that is remaking fitness opportunities within their school district. Depew was among 16 districts nationwide last September to receive the Carol M. White Physical Education Program grant, to be distributed over three years. It is designed to help the district start and expand physical education offerings for students across grade levels before, during and after school.

"Our number one goal is to increase the amount of physical activity these kids are getting on a daily basis," said Stacy Ribbeck, one of 11 physical education teachers in the district and the PEP Grant coordinator.

How to make room for family fitness after school starts

The centers are the cornerstones of the program, and offer equipment that promotes a mix of cardio and strength training. Free weights, Synergy equipment and a 21-foot TRX resistance band system help fill out the high school center. Reality bikes and other equipment synch with an LPconnect app to help students and teachers log and track workouts. The middle school fitness center is similar, though smaller, and will add its own virtual reality bikes this school year. Cayuga Elementary's includes a smaller number of age-appropriate bikes, rowing machines, resistance bands, and Bosu and medicine balls.

Depew school district leaders hope the readings they get from Polar Active activity watches give a more positive view of the physical activity students log in the new school year. (Derek Gee/Buffalo News)

Each center will be used during physical education classes throughout the school year, but also will be open before and after school on weekdays and Saturday mornings. Twenty-eight teachers have been trained in CPR and as fitness center supervisors.

The grant also paid for 129 students to attend a Wildcats for Life fitness camp this summer, and will be used to purchase snowshoes and heart rate monitors this school year.

This comes after students across all grade levels wore district-issued Polar Active activity watches on a rotating basis for part of the spring.

"Our baseline data showed us that looking at our K-12 population, only 3 percent of our kids were active 60 minutes a day, which is startling," Ribbeck said.

Fazio and her friends started to make routine use of the high school center late last spring, and aim to do so again starting next week. They hope it will set up a lifetime of greater fitness activity.

"I've had more opportunity to exercise," she said during a break at the center in June. "The other day, I had 57 minutes on my fitness watch so I looked to get the three extra minutes in."


Twitter: @BNrefresh, @ScottBScanlon

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