Health Promotion Schools of Excellence
Jefferson County Public Schools, 546 S. First St., Room 311, Louisville, KY 40202, (502) 485-7920
Students whose schools participate in the Jefferson County Public Schools Health Promotion Schools of Excellence program do have to take a few extra tests each year. The good news is, studying for them may involve going for a walk, climbing a rock wall, or playing games.
HPSE, first implemented in 1992, is a school-based effort to improve physical fitness and health knowledge and to reduce behaviors that create health risks. It includes classroom instruction in health topics, tied to Kentuckys Core Content in Practical Living; plenty of activities to get kids up and moving; and a wide variety of efforts to make school a healthier environment, from stocking vending machines with healthier snacks to rewarding academic achievement with a sock hop instead of a pizza party.
Following the principles of the comprehensive school health model, HPSE gets parents and school staff members involved, too. Teachers take 1st graders for walks before milk break, parents attend Family Fitness Fun Nights, and custodians take tai chi classes. The adults not only benefit themselves, but also become positive role models for their children and students.
In 2005, 48 Louisville-area schools participated in the HPSE project. They included elementary, middle, and high schools and both public and Catholic institutions. HPSE focuses on four main areas: physical fitness, injury prevention, cancer prevention, and cardiovascular health. But as long as they work within the basic parameters, participating schools are free to design their own curriculum and activities to address their specific needs. To determine those needs, each school administers a standard battery of physical fitness and health-behavior assessments each year. Individual students results are shared with parents, and the school is assessed annually on how well its doing in the aggregate.
Throughout the year, advice and support are provided by the HPSE staff, which also organizes an annual summer professional development institute for school HPSE coordinators. And community volunteers get involved through the Adopt-a-Doc (or nurse, psychologist, etc.) program, which connects classrooms with the health care expertise of the community.