Most years, Greater Amsterdam School District physical education teachers get a few hundred dollars for new equipment.
It hasn’t been enough for a long time, but the yearly health budget is about to get a lot bigger.
Director of secondary instruction Susan Stoya got a call from U.S. Rep. Paul Tonko’s office Monday alerting her to a $1.6 million federal Carol M. White Physical Education Program grant on its way to Amsterdam schools from the United States Department of Education.
“I applied for this grant two times before,” she said. “I guess the third time really is the charm.”
The PEP grant was announced Thursday morning at an event in Tecler Arts Education Magnet School. Physical education staff gathered later in the afternoon in a high school conference room to learn the basics.
The mood was more of relief than unbridled joy.
“I won’t have to fundraise to buy balls for my students anymore,” said Tecler physical education instructor Colleen McHeard. “The kids are going to think this is Christmas.”
The PEP grant will be split up over three years, starting with $633,071 this first year. Provided the district makes progress toward the program’s goals and objectives, and provided funding is available, the remainder of the $1.6 million will be split over the next two years.
Much of that will go to equipment like treadmills, elliptical trainers, pedometers and even a ropes course. There’s also money for teacher education and a grant manager.
The focus of the grant, according to Stoya, is lifelong fitness. It’s a shift the district has been working on for a little while — moving from team sports to general health spread over a lifetime. Up to this point there just wasn’t the cash to make it happen.
“I know a lot of you have been trying for a while,” Stoya said, “but were held back by a lack of resources. You’ll be able to get all the resources you need through this grant.”
The district is looking at the grant as a jump-start to get their students back on a healthy track.
The general idea is to teach even non-athletes to stay fit. If that’s done in a progression from elementary school through high school, kids might actually keep the habit into adulthood.
“So often people get out of high school and the next time they’re active they’re 35 and thinking ‘dang I need to get back into shape,’ ” said high school physical education instructor Pat Liverio.
All the teachers seemed happy Thursday. McHeard was no exception, even as she asked why it took so many attempts to get the grant. Stoya said it was actually a pretty near thing, even this time around.
“This is a very competitive national grant,” she said.
The district was turned down in its first two applications. She took feedback from PEP grant administrators and hired a professional grant writer from out of state. It finally worked.
According to McHeard, Tecler recently landed a smaller, $2,500 grant from ING U.S. to support a running club, which was also announced Thursday.
The PEP grant money became available Tuesday.
Another PEP grant landed in the area, giving the South Colonie Central School District $714,708 this year.