South Routt teachers, staff trying out wellness days

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— When South Routt School District teachers and staff report to work the next two Tuesdays, their typical early morning routines are going to be switched up a bit.

Usually, teachers and staff report to school early Tuesdays for staff development meetings, but to kick off 2014, Staff Wellness Days will begin to take precedent.

This Tuesday will kick off at Yampa Elementary School with 30-minute exercise classes led by Oak Creek fitness instructors Tamara Bereznak and Wendy Gustafson. Waiting for the staff and instructors in the teachers lounge will be a “heart healthy breakfast,” specially prepared by district health and wellness coordinator Kristi Brown.

Throughout the day, the group also will take part in free biometric screenings administered by the Northwest Colorado Visiting Nurse Association and Soroco’s nurse. Screenings will gauge staff cholesterol, glucose, blood pressure, body mass index, vision, hearing and immunizations.

“These wellness days came out of staff wellness surveys we did in December,” Brown said. “There are about 70 staff members, and we had 42 responders to the survey. It was a really good response rate, I think.”

Brown was hired to be the wellness director in September by the district as part of a three-year Healthy Schools Successful Students grant from RMC Health. Since taking over the position, she said she’s collected various data to measure and improve the districts’ student and staff health.

Throughout the past six months, Brown has worked closely with her health and wellness committee to bring in guest speakers and develop programs through organizations like LiveWell Northwest Colorado, Grand Futures Prevention Coalition and the VNA.

She said the surveys have been instrumental in an ongoing mission to better Soroco’s health. Brown was even able to swing a discounted Old Town Hot Springs membership rate for the district.

“I think sometimes, when you add new programs or components to a school district, a lot of times, people look at it skeptically,” Brown said. “They say things like, ‘Will this be more work for me?’ This is a good way to let staff know that a lot of what we’re doing is for them, their benefit.”

Brown said in an email that studies show students and staff perform best when not hampered or distracted by bad nutrition, lack of sleep, stress and a sedentary lifestyle.

A key component to turning staff development days into wellness days for a short period came from district principals and Superintendent Scott Mader giving Brown consent to move forward with the project.

Brown still has more than two years to continue developing wellness projects for district staff and students, and she hopes positive feedback will continue to pour in and the wellness days will bring in a new line of thinking in the schools.

“We’re not just focusing on things that are dictated by the state,” Brown said. “This is actually a response we see back from staff. I’m hoping this will help create some buy-in from staff.”

To reach Ben Ingersoll, call 970-871-4204, email bingersoll@SteamboatToday.com or follow him on Twitter @BenMIngersoll

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