Students will be using a new outdoor fitness area at Warren County Middle School this fall
By Kim Walter
FRONT ROYAL -- Students at Warren County Middle School are going to notice more exercise and activity options outside the building when the school year starts back up.
The Warren County School Board at its recent meeting approved Project Fit, an idea formed by a few staff and faculty members at the school to get kids outside.
Holly Goode, administrator for the school's Youth Enrichment Program, said teachers and other school officials were becoming concerned with the lack of exercise materials located outside the school building.
Principal Alan Fox said a track used to be located outside the building some time in the 80s, when it was still a high school.
"Now, we've pretty much just got a large field," he said. "We have weightlifting rooms, the gym and other exercise equipment inside, but the options aren't there when the kids want to go outside."
In January, staff members wondered what could be done about the issue. They decided a fitness track or trail would be a great outdoor option to get kids walking or running. Staff also wanted to give middle schoolers equipment that wasn't too young, but also not too complicated.
Goode heard about a grant possibility from the Rotary Club of Front Royal. She applied, requested funds for special equipment pieces, and was awarded $8,500.
Goode said day-by-day, other community organizations and businesses have donated their funds and materials to "make this dream a reality."
Warren County Administrator Doug Stanley got a grant from Lowes to get materials and manpower to put together a shade structure and picnic tables. Trex also has donated a bench, and Goode said she's working to on a recycling project that could get the school another bench.
Warren County also is sponsoring track work and looking for gravel donations. Stanley said he's collected four loads of gravel so far, but needs 18 for the entire track.
The trail itself will cover the perimeter of the 7,980-square-foot field located in the back of the school. It will stay inside the fence that already outlines the field.
Goode said if everything goes according to plan, phase one of the project will be done by the start of the school year, meaning students can enjoy the fitness trail, exercise equipment, shade shelter, picnic tables and benches.
The exercise equipment will include some innovative pieces made for middle school-aged students. They include a fun rider, or stationary bike; a quad spinner, which promotes cardiovascular fitness and strengthens quadriceps and the abdominal area; strength and stretch bars; and Tai Chi spinners, which provide a full arm workout.
Goode noted that the equipment also will be accessible to special needs students.
"I wanted all students at the school to get something out of this," she said.
Phase two of the project involves a basketball court and another paved area for smaller games like four square and tetherball. That part of the project isn't yet funded, but Goode said she's hoping to contact local paving companies to see what kind of help she can get.
Fox said he's looking forward to getting kids away from playing in the front yard of the middle school, which is almost entirely surrounded by streets.
"You know, kids are out there tossing a ball around, and it can easily go out into the street ... and a kid might run after it without thinking," he said. "Not only will Project Fit give kids more options outside, but it's safer, too."
Superintendent Pamela McInnis said she could tell that a lot of time and effort had been put into creating a quick turnaround for such a project.
"The outdoor facilities at the middle school right now are ... minimal, at best," she said. "They deserve a usable space."
To find out how you can help with Project Fit, call the school at 540-635-2194 or email Goode at email@example.com.
Contact staff writer Kim Walter at 540-465-5137 ext. 191, or firstname.lastname@example.org