Around the region, five middle schools were awarded Shape the State grants to improve middle school students' fitness with money for training, curriculum and equipment. The program was established by BlueCross BlueShield of Tennessee Health Foundation Inc. Area schools receiving the $10,000 grants are:
• Chattanooga Girls Leadership Academy, Chattanooga
• Ocoee Middle School, Cleveland
• Sequatchie County Middle School, Dunlap
• South Pittsburg Academy, South Pittsburg
• West Middle School, Tullahoma
Source: BlueCross BlueShield of Tennessee Health Foundation
Five area middle schools have received $10,000 Shape the State grants to boost physical education programs with money for training, curriculum and equipment.
School officials say the money from BlueCross BlueShield of Tennessee will give physical education programs a needed shot in the arm.
"Our 'Fitnessgram' shows 44 percent of our students last year were either overweight or obese. That's awful," said Ocoee Middle School physical education teacher Eddie Frazier, referring to the reporting program used by Ocoee Middle to track student fitness.
"I think we have a pretty good physical education program, but yet you see those numbers and that shows you what we're dealing with," Frazier said.
Ocoee Middle School in Bradley County, Sequatchie County Middle School and South Pittsburg Academy in Marion County are among 20 Tennessee schools that got Shape the State grants.
Chattanooga Girls Leadership Academy and Coffee County's West Middle School also received the funding.
State Department of Health statistics show about 40 percent of Tennessee children are overweight or obese, dramatically increasing their risk for health conditions such as diabetes, heart disease and cancer, grant officials say in a release.
Staff members from the recipient schools will undergo training in November from Spark, a program established in 1989 that fosters "environmental and behavioral change" with a program package containing a highly active curriculum, on-site training and support combined with equipment matched to program content, according to the organization's website.
Sequatchie Middle School Principal Sandy Nash said school officials will know more about what the grant will fund after the November training, but she hopes to be able to expand activity options for all students.
"We always have overweight students; we have all shapes and sizes," Nash said.
The school's two physical education teachers try to keep students active with games such as basketball, she said, but she hopes the grant also provides some activities for students who wait on buses in the afternoons.
Ben Benton is a news reporter at the Chattanooga Times Free Press. He covers Southeast Tennessee and previously covered North Georgia education. Ben has worked at the Times Free Press since November 2005, first covering Bledsoe and Sequatchie counties and later adding Marion, Grundy and other counties in the northern and western edges of the region to his coverage. He was born and raised in Cleveland, Tenn., a graduate of Bradley Central High School. Benton ...