WebExtra: CPS efforts to improve student health

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Student health is becoming a higher priority for the central administration, which has expanded its health services and programs in schools. Below is a sampling of projects, some initiated by CPS, others by non-profits or universities working in partnership with the district or individual schools.

Health Services

Immunizations and Physicals At the district’s request, more health service providers are visiting schools to provide the state-required immunizations and physicals that students at certain grade levels need by the October deadline. CPS also has started a campaign to get kids in compliance during the winter or spring preceding the deadline.

RealBenefits The district has partnered with the Illinois Hunger Coalition to help the families of CPS students apply for food stamps, KidCare, FamilyCare and other public assistance programs.

Vision and Hearing Screenings CPS screens children at eight grade levels, four more than required by the state. Between preschool and 9th grade, only 1st, 4th and 7th grades are bypassed—unless a student is new to the district, has been referred by a teacher or is in special education. Starting this year, CPS is also screening every student at the 167 elementary schools on probation.

Dental Sealant Program CPS offers dental treatment to 2nd- and 6th-graders on site at participating schools through a partnership with the Chicago Department of Public Health and Oral Health America.

Health Education

I, Bio and Disease Detective are middle school and high school health-related biology curricula developed by scientists and researchers at Northwestern University, CPS teachers and other partners. Teachers at 10 CPS schools participate. For more information, visit the BioQ collaborative web site at http://www.letus.org/bioq/

The Great Body Shop is an elementary-level health education program covering nutrition, violence prevention, substance abuse and other topics. With $2.2 million in settlement money from a state tobacco lawsuit, the district launched it at 90 elementary schools in 2001 and subsequently expanded it to over 450 schools. Funding to support continuation of the program has been limited. This year, the district could afford to replace program materials at only 95 schools.

Physical Education

CPS Golf Program has introduced kids at 50 elementary schools to the sport during their regular gym classes and has invited them to play after school. The district patches together grant money and solicits used golf equipment to support the annual four- to six-week unit.

Nike PE2GO is a national community outreach program supported by Nike to help classroom teachers supplement increasingly scaled back physical education programs. Fourth- and 5th-grade teachers at 10 CPS elementary schools got a curriculum, training and portable exercise equipment.

Operation Tone Up is a national program that combines health education with fitness activities. CPS provides a curriculum and training for gym teachers and 3rd- to 6th-grade teachers at participating schools. The 10-week unit culminates in a day of athletic competitions, an essay contest and a healthy recipe contest. Thirty-four schools participated in fall 2004, and 35 more are expected to this spring.

SPARK (Sports, Play and Active Recreation for Kids) is a physical education curriculum developed at San Diego State University with funding from the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute of the National Institutes of Health. The research-based curriculum follows a national trend in emphasizing individual fitness over sports-related skills.

CPS won a $400,000 federal grant to train physical education teachers at 28 elementary schools in the SPARKS program and supply 18 of them with new equipment. Teachers at those 18 “model for success” schools will mentor colleagues at other schools. Patricia Faire, the CPS physical education manager, hopes to secure grant money to expand SPARKS curriculum and training to a third of CPS elementary schools by 2005-06.

Nutrition

Cool Foods is aimed at getting elementary students to eat more fruits and vegetable by providing them in salad bars, breakfast bars and as after-school snacks. It is being piloted at DePriest Elementary in Austin, Nettelhorst Elementary in Lake View and Namaste Charter in McKinley Park. It is lead by the Chicago Food Systems Collaborative, a coalition of community organizations and local universities, in partnership with CPS. Students also will receive nutrition education, initially just at Namaste so university researchers can see if it makes a difference in how much produce kids consume.

School Environment

We Mean Green Clean is a project of the non-profit Healthy Schools Campaign that educates school janitors in CPS schools on safer alternatives to toxic cleaning products, which can harm indoor air quality. For more information, contact Guillermo Gomez at ggomez@healthyschoolscampaign.org.