The community around Callaway Hills Elementary School in Holts Summit gained use of the school's 2-year-old track last week with the addition of a fence sectioning off the quarter-mile loop of gravel from the playground — the most recent product of the cooperation between Callaway Hills and Healthy Schools Healthy Communities to give students and families more opportunities to stay active.
More improvements are on the way, with plans to add fitness stations along the track by next fall.
Kelsey Chrisman, Healthy Schools coordinator, said the track and fence were paid for through Healthy Schools Healthy Communities grant funding, and the organization will pay for the fitness stations as well.
The fitness stations originally were planned to be installed before the start of the upcoming school year, Chrisman added, but the initial arrangement to buy the equipment fell through.
Callaway Hills physical education teacher Justin Reynolds said the track has made keeping students active easier, providing a chance to let children warm up for class and a better way to keep track of how much exercise they've put in.
"When I first got (to Callaway Hills), and when I went to school there, we would run up on the blacktop area, and it's like 12-15 laps (for a mile)," Reynolds said. "Those kids, they don't see the big number. It's like, 'Oh, we've only got to run three laps; that's great.'"
Callaway Hills held a fitness week last year, he added, which included letting children who volunteered walk a mile on the track before breakfast. Reynolds said the school may implement the idea across all grade levels more often this year.
Reynolds has been tasked with picking the fitness stations to go around the track, he added, trying to find a balance between serving his "classroom" and keeping the equipment useful for the community.
Reynolds said the school is taking improving the track and the area around it one small step at a time. A kickball backstop is already there, but the space could be more, he added.
"It just lends itself to like, 'Oh, well this looks like a community place where we could have a soccer field and a baseball field,' and then you've got your trail around it with your fitness equipment, with your benches for places for people to sit," Reynolds said. " That's kind of the vision now. Will all of that come to fruition? I don't know. But the fitness equipment will."
The grant for Healthy Schools Healthy Communities will end in 2020, then Callaway Hills will have to maintain the improvements itself. The more the community starts using the additions and realizing the benefits to children, Reynolds said, the more families will buy into the ideas and help sustain them.
The area around Callaway Hills is more separated than other parts of Holts Summit, Reynolds added, so the elementary school can be the easiest place for many families to stay active.
Other Callaway Hills projects funded by Healthy Schools Healthy Communities include an after-school cooking club, fitness club and gardening club.
Another activity that has flown under the radar is the school's glow run. Reynolds said he's not spreading word about the run yet, trying to keep it manageable, but it could one day become part of how the school sustains some of the upgrades.