Watertown’s PEP Grant Touches Far More than Gym Classes

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The Watertown Public Schools have got an influx of more than $500,000 into the schools to improve the fitness and wellness of children in town.

The money came from the Carol M. White Physical Education Program (PEP) grant, and much of the focus has been on improving physical education classes (see details here). But that is not the only benefit of the three-year grant, Director of Wellness and Extended Services Donna Ruseckas told the School Committee.

The Recreation Department and the Boys and Girls Club of Watertown have also received equipment as part of the grant.

Ruseckas said she plans to put in fitness activities around Watertown’s schools for children and their families.

“The Recreation Department, along with the Department of Public Works, will put in fitness stations outside schools, and at Victory Field for the high school,” Ruseckas said. “In the summer time, the evening time students and parents can use the equipment.”

The grant also helped pay for 30 pairs of snow shoes, which has been used in Recreation Department activities.

Students at Watertown Middle School have been able to take swimming lessons at the Boys and Girls Club, and the club has benefited, too, said Executive Director Renee Gaudette.

“We purchased a lot of scooters and started a scooter hockey league, with 50 club members participating,” Gaudette said.

Also, volleyball courts have been put up in the Club’s gym.

“We have a travel volleyball team, which we have not been able to have before,” Gaudette said.

A special emphasis has also been placed on non-competitive sports, Gaudette said. The Club has zumba classes, and Boys and Girls Club employees got professional development for non-traditional activities.

“We want to be more inclusive so all kids will be able to participate in physical activities,” Gaudette said. “Especially those kids not interested in being involved in sports.”

The schools also get before and after school activities paid for through the grant. This was put in because elementary school students get physical education only twice a week and every other day at the middle school, said Joe Lampman, the district’s Physical Education and Health Coordinator.

School Committee Chairwoman Eileen Hsu-Balzer said she would like to have those continue.

“We might want to see if we can continue to fund the before school physical activities,” Hsu-Bazler said. “What I’m hearing is they are well attended, it’s good for them and it’s difficult for elementary kids to only have PE classes twice a week.”

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