Stillwater only district in state to win federal fitness funds

The Stillwater School District secured a federal grant this fall to begin instilling in its students a passion for physical fitness.

The district, the state's lone grant recipient, will collect $727,030 in the program's first year and about the same amount of money in each of the next two years, according to announcements made recently by the district and the U.S. Department of Education.

The federal agency manages the grants as part of the Carol M. White Physical Education Program, also known as PEP.

Grant recipients must provide instruction in healthy eating habits and develop a physical fitness activities program that includes at least one of about five elements specified by the federal government. The Stillwater district plans to emphasize the importance of remaining physically fit for a lifetime and also will provide professional development for teachers — two strategies suggested by the U.S. Department of Education's Office of Safe and Healthy Students.

"The PEP grant will help students understand their physical well-being and enhance their physical, mental, social or emotional development," said Deb Van Klei, a health and physical education teacher at Stillwater Area High School. "It is about supporting a lifelong healthy lifestyle for all of our students," she said in a news release.

Students will develop their own fitness programs and monitor their fitness with devices such as pedometers and heart rate monitors. Grant proceeds also will be used to hire more staff members to manage and coordinate the three-year program, the district said.

Superintendent Corey Lunn said that the fitness effort mirrors goals set in the district's new Bridge to Excellence strategic plan. That plan is being funded by a combination of voter-approved levy dollars, grants and resources developed through community partnerships.

"It is because of grants such as this that we were able to ask our community for less funding in our recent levy request," Lunn said.


Free activity passes offered to 60-year-olds

Residents of the Mahtomedi School District who are at least 60 years old can obtain a free Zephyr Gold Activity Pass, which can be used to gain free admission to most school events during the 2013-14 school year.

The passes cover school-produced plays and home sporting events that typically charge an admission fee. Paid admission still is required, however, for high school boys' and girls' hockey games, the district said in a news release on its website.

Passes are available at the District Education Center, 1520 Mahtomedi Av., Mahtomedi, in the main office or in the community education office in the rear of the building.

The White Bear Lake School District also offers free passes to senior residents 65 and older for activities that include concerts, home athletic events and theater productions. People who are interested are asked to call the superintendent's office at 651-407-7563.

Applications also are available on the district's website.

Cottage Grove

Three-team alliance wins robotics event

Data Bits, the robotics team at Park High School in Cottage Grove, captured a recent regional meet as part of a three-team alliance with robotics teams from Prior Lake High School and the Science and Math Academy in Woodbury.

The event, dubbed the Minne-Mini Regional, was held at Prior Lake High on Nov. 23 and gave teams an opportunity to prepare for upcoming competition.

"It was an excellent showing by all members, as new members stepped up to fulfill their team roles and senior members did an excellent job coaching and teaching," Mike Simurdiak, a chemistry teacher and the club's adviser, said in a South Washington County School District news release.

The team also won the event's engineering outreach award for the design of its robot and for its willingness to share concepts with other teams.

Anthony Lonetree