Amory Schools tout health initiatives

By CHRIS WILSON
Senior Writer

The Amory School District is a leader in school safety and health. Because of what it has done in this arena with very little state funding, it is sharing its story throughout the state.
Carol Rogers, Amory school nurse and the state’s first certified School Safety Officer, has been on the speaking circuit, talking to different state and national agencies and foundations about successes here.
Rogers mainly talks about the Coordinated School Health Program that is recommended by the Center for Disease Control and Prevention.
The Coordinated School Health Program has eight components, and Rogers said Amory’s schools are working to accomplish each of those components.
Some other schools in the state are doing similar health programs for its students and teachers, but the others are doing it with $100,000 Bower Foundation grants. Amory is relying on its community support and small grants.
Some of the health-related things happening at Amory Middle School include installment of a climbing wall in the gym, the Game On! day of events that involved both the community and students in physical fitness activities, the fitness room that was established at AMS, and health screenings that are done each year at the school to detect health problems in students.
“We used local grants and Mississippi Department of Education funding for these things,” Rogers said.
“My speaking to places is because we’re accomplishing these things with community partnerships,” she said.
The Mississippi Department of Education is using Amory Middle School’s story as an example of what can be done.
With Mississippi being the most obese and unhealthy state in the nation, new health initiatives are being handed down to schools. This trend is increasing and Rogers said it is important that Amory is positioning itself to already be doing these things that will soon be mandated for all school districts.
Amory Middle School is looking at starting a Medicaid clinic in the school such as the one started at East Amory Elementary three years ago. Mississippi is the first state in the nation to have Medicaid clinics in its schools.
The district is also looking at safety inspections in its schools that would be performed by the Mississippi Department of Education’s Office of Safe Schools. The inspections would be a look at the school environment — air quality, chemicals, fire safety, an evacuation plan and more. “If we have deficiencies, we’d correct them,” Rogers said. Amory would be one of the few districts to undertake this safety inspection program voluntarily.
The district has also obtained the Healthy S.E.A.T. software program that was developed by the EPA. It allows a school district to organize its school health and safety program and to have an ongoing system to evaluate it at each school. “It’s like a preventive maintenance program for schools,” Rogers said.
The district also received a $3,000 grant from the state’s Office of Healthy Schools for Amory High School to implement the state’s new vending machine policy for healthier students. Rogers said they hope to develop a fitness center at the high school with some of the money.
The district also received three Team Nutrition grants of $5,000 each from the USDA which are administered through the state Department of Education. They will be used at AMS, AHS and West Amory Elementary for physical education and nutrition education materials.
Another effort is under way to apply for a Safe Routes to School grant through the Mississippi Department of Education. It would be to create sidewalks and bike paths connecting the district’s schools to residential areas.
These grants all go along with the district’s physical activity component in the Coordinated School Health Program.
Rogers said the idea is to take care of the district’s teachers and students and to give them a proper, healthy environment. The state is looking at Amory as an example of how other schools could partner with their community — with the PTO, banks, individuals, local foundations and others, to make students healthier and schools safer.
Rogers is employed part-time with her school nurse position being funded locally through grants. However, she is currently trying to find funding for next year to keep her position. Neither the state nor the local school district funds the school nurse position.