Tonawanda News — Most of the North Tonawanda School District’s 3,700 students have an added accessory this week.
Thousands of pedometers acquired as part of a $1.5 million federal grant program were handed out on Jan. 7 to students here, when most of them began keeping track of each and every step they took.
The program dubbed the Carol M. White Physical Education Program requires the use of the pedometers. After the experiment ends this weekend, data collected from the district’s pupils will be sent to the federal government.
The district will receive funding over three years in return for its participation — money that will be used to buy exercise equipment and to strengthen its physical education program, which has undergone recent cuts.
“It’s very competitive and it’s across the nation,” Superintendent Greg Woytila said. “We’re proud to get it, we had applied twice before. We’ll be able to get a lot of equipment that would be tough to acquire.”
Students in kindergarten through second grade wore the devices for the last five days, while the older students will do so through the end of the week.
Woytila said the aim for the older children is to reach 10,000 steps each day, while the younger students will have less stringent goals. The program is required of all students, though a letter mailed out to parents last month gave them the chance to opt out of the body mass index portion, which deciphers whether a student is obese or underweight.
“Obviously we have to collect some data but we’re not going to hold them to it,” he said. “It is more of a homework assignment.”
Woytila added that after the letters were sent home, the district received nearly a dozen calls from concerned parents. But after the process was explained to them, he said, most agreed it would be beneficial to combat the growing problem of childhood obesity in the United States.
“It’s probably something we’d like to sustain,” he said. “A lot of the staff members are excited and they’re asking for pedometers for themselves. Most of the parents who call are excited, too, but not everybody.”
Several other Western New York schools including the Kenmore Tonawanda School District also are taking part in the program, which provides grants to educational institutions and community groups to bolster physical education programs and training for teachers.