Written by Joy Choquette

For schools in Franklin and Grand Isle Counties, “going for the gold,” has a whole new meaning. In an ongoing effort to increase healthy options in schools, RiseVT offers opportunities for schools to be recognized for their efforts. These are signified at Bronze, Silver and Gold levels.

To participate, schools must complete scorecards via the RiseVT website. These scorecards require different tasks be completed. For instance, to obtain Bronze-level status, a school must complete 9 of 11 different activities listed. Examples include: a daily recess of 20 minutes or more offered to all students, availability of before and/or after school opportunities for fitness, and fresh drinking water available throughout the building.

Additional completed tasks are necessary if a school wants to obtain Silver-level status. These, of course, would need to be completed in addition to the requirements for Bronze status. Gold-level status takes the requirements up a notch. In addition to the requirements needed to meet both Bronze and Silver status, a Gold-status school needs to complete 12 out of 15 requirements listed.

Five schools in Franklin County were recently awarded or are close to, Gold-level status. These are: Fairfield Center School, Fletcher Elementary School, Georgia Elementary and Middle School (GEMS), Soar Learning Center, and St. Albans Town Educational Center (SATEC).

Principal of Fairfield Center School, Sean O’Dell, stated the RiseVT funds awarded will help fund a new pre-kindergarten playground. The school currently has a playground for children ages 5-12, but not for younger children. “Our new playground allows our tiniest learners to get outside in a safe and fun space for exploration and social learning,” says Sean.

He states that in striving for Gold status, the school received credit for a program it already had in place—its Outdoor Classroom—which was encouraging. Even without including that boost, Sean calls the RiseVT grant process, “incredibly simple,” and notes, “All you have to do is make sincere efforts to have a healthier school.” The school did have to “up its game,” though, says Sean, in order to obtain Gold status. “For instance, at Silver, you have to have one walking event at your school. For Gold, we had to have more regular walking events.”

At Fletcher Elementary School, Principal Chris Dodge, notes that the school is very close to Gold status. The school had two Gold-level classrooms last year. “This year, we are making a universal commitment school-wide to get all of our classrooms to Gold status,” Dodge notes. “Currently, all classrooms are at Silver, which is already a major accomplishment and demonstrates our teachers’ commitment to improving the health and wellbeing of their students, and by proxy, their own.”

With RiseVT Gold Award funds, the school purchased equipment to promote movement—such as hula hoops—and children’s books with a food/nutrition theme. Additionally, “It will roll out a family-based nutrition education opportunity where a nutritionist would come to school and cook with families and talk about healthy food selections and preparation,” says Chris. “We’ve been very deliberate in making sure the RiseVT funding furthers this work.”

Principal Steve Emery, at GEMS, is thrilled with how well the program has tied into healthier changes that the school community had already implemented. He states that the evolution of the school’s health has continued since it got on board with the RiseVT program. “It’s really progressed from a few classrooms to just blossoming out to where we are now,” says Steve who notes that almost every classroom in the elementary school is now participating.

“As a whole, it really created an opportunity for us to look for other [healthier] opportunities for students.” In a particular, Steve notes, the celebrations for milestones reached have been a big hit across the school community. Additionally, students have found the hands-on learning about nutrition informative. Steve recounts when he walked into a classroom last year where a RiseVT representative was working with a class, physically looking at the amount of sugar in different drinks. “For the students to see that sugar poured out in a container was a great educational opportunity,” says Steve. “It’s promoted more and more conversation,” he says.

At Soar Learning Center, Tiffany Trombley, clinical services team leader, states that the RiseVT Gold Award monies will be used to help build a new basketball court on the property to be utilized by students. “The process is very easy,” Tiffany notes about the program. “After reaching out to RiseVT they helped us through the entire process.” She notes, “The RiseVT team is incredibly helpful, attentive and responsive.”

In order to obtain Gold-status, each classroom in the elementary, middle school and LEAP program completed 12 or more of the activities and initiatives throughout the year. “Each level comes with incentives that really keep the school community invested,” says Tiffany. She states that this is Soar Learning Center’s second year participating in the program. “Many of our returning students are aware of the Scorecards and incentives. They all seem dedicated and motivated to support their class to get Gold status again.”

At SATEC, Principal Angela Stebbins said that the school’s School Climate and Farm to School teams are currently meeting to determine how to best use the Gold Award funds.

As schools in the area strive to make their educational facility healthier, it has a positive impact on students, teachers and staff. And that positive, healthy impact will flow out into the community, too, creating a win-win situation for the County as a whole.

For more information on how your school can get started with this RiseVT initiative, please visit: https://risevt.org/scorecard/