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Standard School District's physical education program gets into shape

Standard Middle School just opened a brand-new fitness room that would be the envy of any school. So far it includes machines for lifting weights, biking, benching and performing plyometrics. Inspirational quotes are on the wall, with TVs and a sound system on the way.

The Standard Middle School fitness room is part of a broader effort by the district to improve the health and fitness of the students, staff and the surrounding Oildale community.

“Physical well-being is important,” said Susan Denton, academic improvement specialist for the district.

Like a lot of fitness stories, this one started with a wake-up call. The district’s fifth- and seventh-grade students’ scores in the state’s annual physical fitness test were “subpar,” said Michael Strahan, the district’s director of special projects.

Superintendent Paul Meyers asked how they could get those scores up, Strahan said. Over the past few years, the district started to invest in its physical education and athletic programs.

Gone are the days when middle school P.E. classes would have 70 kids or where classroom teachers would ask elementary students to run a few laps.

Standard doubled the number of P.E. teachers to give all three elementary schools their own dedicated teachers and to reduce class sizes down to about 27 students at the middle school, said Strahan.

The fitness room represents a big-ticket investment, but the district has been making big investments in physical education and athletics. Strahan pointed out the equipment room is fully stocked for all the traditional sports, but also pickleball, badminton and ultimate frisbee.

The goal, Denton said, is to create a physical education curriculum that is fun and helps students build healthy lifelong practices and habit — whether that includes learning yoga or picking up a new sport.

The athletics program has also received more attention and investment. The school district wanted to create opportunities for students whose parents couldn’t afford to sign them up for pricey clubs. There are new uniforms for everyone. Cheerleading returned this year after a long hiatus. Soccer will be kicking off soon.

Chevron, the sponsors of the new fitness room, also helped bring a new futsal court to the middle school, courtesy of the Los Angeles Football Club. Futsal is a scaled down version of soccer played on a hard court.

These are the things that help lure students to school and improve attendance.

“It’s a little carrot,” said Denton.

The new fitness room then represents the tip of the iceberg for the district’s ambitions. It had long been on the wish list for the district, but the timing feels just right after months of students spending a lot of time on their phones and not being active, according to officials.

Strahan said the school ripped out the placeholders for iPads on the machines. The fitness room is a device-free zone, he said.

Between the weight machines, stationary bikes, benches and plyometric machines, there is room for 35 people to work out at once, as well as do circuit-training.

During the day, the fitness room will be available for students who are in physical education. The school plans to launch an elective called strong body, Strahan said.

It won’t just be for middle school students. After school, the fitness room is available to the 400 staff members who work throughout the district. The fitness room will also be available to sports clinics on weekends and over the summer for third- through eighth-graders, Strahan said.

Denton said the ultimate goal would be to open up school facilities for the community, though currently, that’s not possible with COVID restrictions.

“We want to be that community hub,” Denton said.

You can reach Emma Gallegos at 661-395-7394.