Sixteen California charter schools have been awarded more than $1.5 million from the U.S. Department of Education to improve the health of school-age kids.
The biggest local winner, 4,000-student ICEF charter school group, said it'll use its $845,000 grant to give students more nutrition education during the school day and integrate academics with physical education.
“It feels great to be recognized,” ICEF CEO Parker Hudnut said, "but also to have the funding now to do what we have wanted to do to really try to improve the physical fitness of students and connecting that with nutrition."
It’s a critical job, Hudnut said, because ICEF schools are clustered in low-income neighborhoods in South Los Angeles and Inglewood, where it’s harder to find safe outdoor activities and healthy foods.
Hudnut said he also plans to use some of the grant funds to gather data to find out how much a student’s health improves or declines over time, such as tracking changes to kids' body mass indeces.
“So we actually plan to use some of this money to buy equipment that we can track heart rate, BMI, those kind of tracking devices so that we can get longitudinal information for these students,” he said.
ICEF plans to hire four people with the funds: a project coordinator and one person each for each school level (elementary, middle, and high school). The point person will go from school to school and help physical education staff and teachers use the new devices and help integrate physical education into the academic curriculum.
One possible academic lesson, Hudnut said, is a project by students to study physical activity among ancient native Americans - and replicate some of it.
The grant runs out in three years, Hudnut said, but he'll try to find a way to keep the program going.
Three dozen school districts nationwide received more than $33 million in health grants from the Department of Education.
Of those funds, $3.5 million went to California - but none of it was awarded to traditional public school districts. Five of the six California organizations given grants run charter schools, the other is a nonprofit that works with traditional public schools.