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Initial Award Press Release


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Press Release

Contact: Lisa Marriott,
Administrative Assistant to the Superintendent
Phone: (203) 341-1026

Date: October 8, 2013


Westport Wellness Initiative receives Physical Education Program (PEP) grant from the US Department of Education

Dave Gusitsch, Department Chair for Physical Education & Health for the Westport Public Schools shares the exciting news that the Westport Public School district, grades K-12 are the recipients of a three year, $936,771.70 grant to establish the Westport Wellness Initiative. 60 grants totaling $32 million dollars were awarded under the 2013 Carol M. White Physical Education Program by the U.S. Department of Education for Nutrition and Physical Education (PE) programs.

Dr. Elliott Landon, Superintendent of Schools, remarked that, “Dave Gusitsch exemplifies the best in administrators and teachers who seek to provide their students with healthy and active lives while in school and throughout their adult years. Dave has worked relentlessly to secure this grant with the assistance of members of our physical education department. His efforts have been consistent with the directive of the Board of Education that the Administration seek every opportunity to receive external funding for desirable educational programs that minimize the impact of educational costs upon our local Westport taxpayers.”

“Healthy, active students do better in school and in life, “ U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan said. “These grants will help schools and communities educate students on the value of healthy lifestyles through programs that get kids moving and teach lifelong healthy habits.”

The Westport Wellness Initiative will target all K-12 students. The goal is to increase student activity, healthy eating, fitness, and state PE standards achievement levels to promote lifetime wellness in the community. PE instructors will benefit from technology-focused professional development sessions that provide information and strategies for effectively incorporating the use of technology into the PE Classroom. Students will benefit from a more interactive experience as the program strives to educate the “whole child”, keeping in mind each of the cognitive, affective, and psychomotor domains in a developmentally appropriate manner. The mind and body connection will be an integral theme throughout the entire program.

Community collaboration and coordination will be a key element of the project approach. For example, partnering with Wakeman Town Farm will allow teachers to gain information and training for nutrition education and student opportunities to be active outside of school. Also, working with local community organizations by participating in Wellness-based events that promote the Westport Wellness Initiative to the greater community, will offer students and their families access to a wide range of information on Healthy living.

To enhance not only the physical development of students but to also facilitate mental, social and emotional development, equipment such as traverse walls and sport walls will be incorporated into the Westport Wellness Initiative. Activities such as these and other non-traditional activities, promote the transition to a more Wellness based program. Many students who may not necessarily excel in other, more traditional sports will find that they have the opportunity to be successful in a more collaborative, creative environment.

The introduction of “exergaming” or “interactive fitness” equipment is an innovative component of the Westport Wellness Initiative. Interactive fitness refers to an exercise experience wherein a fitness component is partnered with a piece of technology to create an activity that is rigorous, yet entertaining. Interactive fitness may also be in the form of technology-driven activities that require students to use their body to participate..

In order to take advantage of Westport’s location near the water and a variety of trails and parks located in the area, Westport Public Schools will acquire equipment that provides opportunities for students to explore local resources that promote a healthy, active lifestyle. Examples include kayaks, stand-up paddle boards, roller blades, and various other supplies for year round indoor and outdoor recreational activities. PE instructors will be trained in proper, safe use of the equipment. Programs at each level will consider the needs of all students and provide opportunities for any student who may have a disability and may not otherwise be able to participate.

More information on these exciting new programs and others will be shared with the community and parents as they are implemented.

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