Grant paves the way for new gym equipment for Ontario elementary schools

ONTARIO – Big things have small beginnings.
A year and half ago, Kendra Cleaver, May Roberts Elementary School physical education teacher, staff at the school crafted what seemed like a small idea to find and install outside gym equipment and build a walking track.
“This started off with May Roberts fundraising. We wanted a walking track. From there it blew up into this big thing and it is really cool where it went,” said Cleaver.
The idea eventually involved school officials, students, teachers, all the elementary schools in the district and the Ontario School Board. Last week at May Roberts, the fruits of that small idea were shared ­– a set of gym equipment next to a quarter-mile walking track.
The equipment and the walking track – paid with $550,000 federal grant – are available to students during classes and to the public after school hours.

The school was the third in the district to receive the equipment and the walking track.
Ontario School District maintenance crews installed the equipment and built a walking track at Aiken and Pioneer Elementary Schools earlier this spring. The district plans to begin work on a similar complex at Cairo Elementary School later this month.
The playground equipment consists of 12 pieces including parallel bars, chin-up bars, a push-up bar, a horizontal ladder and a triple station balance beam. All of the devices are important to help youth focus on a healthy lifestyle, said Cleaver.
“It will help students build coordination and flexibility and muscle strength, things they can utilize the rest of their lives to stay healthy,” said Cleaver.
Scott Poncy, May Roberts principal, said the equipment will create a “foundation of a healthy lifestyle for kids.”
Cleaver said once she finished her initial proposal, Bob Bennett, Ontario School District facility manager, liked the idea.
“He said, ‘Hey, I think we could take this a little further. So, draw up something bigger,’” Cleaver said.
Cleaver then developed a survey for grade school students across the district that asked them what type of recreational facility they would like.
“The No. 1 thing they wanted was fitness equipment,” said Cleaver.
Cleaver then went back to the drawing board in the fall of 2021.
“I wrote up the plan and found the fitness equipment online,” said Cleaver.
One of the requirements Cleaver said she sought was enough equipment that could be used by one to two classes at once.
Once her proposal was refined, Cleaver delivered it to the Ontario School Board in the spring of 2022.
“They voted yes on it, then Bob and his team took over and purchased and installed the equipment,” said Cleaver. “It was a big team effort,” said Cleaver.
Bennett said the equipment is popular.
“Everyone is pretty excited about it,” he said.
Last week, 12-year-old Blake Bolley was busy using the equipment. He was definitely pleased with the new exercise gear.
“It helps you build strength and get stronger,” said Bolley.

News tip? Contact reporter Pat Caldwell at [email protected].

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