ABC7 Solutions: Sierra Madre elementary school's program helps keep students physically fit during pandemic

Remote learning has deeply affected physical fitness. One study showed 55% of kids feel their physical activities have been disrupted by school closures.
SIERRA MADRE, Calif. (KABC) -- You worry about your kids' mental fitness during distance learning, but what about their physical fitness? With no recess to run around, one local school is creating the next best thing.

Remote learning has deeply affected physical fitness. One study showed 55% of kids feel their physical activities have been disrupted by school closures.

St. Rita's Elementary School in Sierra Madre is trying to address the needs of students who are still learning from home by providing an after-school fitness program for students in 3rd-8th grade.

"Parents have commented how happy their kids are," said Principal Adela Solis. "They went home tired, they went home out of breath, but they just... they just had a great time."

Thanks to a waiver, TK -2nd grade resumed in-person learning Feb. 1 at St. Rita's. The older students continue classroom instruction online at home, but they happily returned to campus Feb. 8 for fitness instruction.

"I didn't really think I would miss something like this because I never really found it that important," said 7th grader Jack Bragg. "But it makes me feel a little weird that it's cool to come back here and do something that I did every day last year."

The protocols in place allowing younger students to return to the classroom are followed for the after school program. Temperatures are checked upon arrival. Proper distance and masks are always in place. Sanitizing stations are a common sight. Pods of no more than 14 students, each with their own coach, allow for activity and control, and a feeling of safety.

"They are with the one coach all four days, their group, so I've actually been really confident that they are safe up here when they're up here," said Laura Bragg, Jack's mom.

Experts say once children return to class, it will take some time for them to settle into a new routine after a year away from school.

"We expect any change is difficult for children, for all of us actually. But especially children where routine and structure are so important to their emotional well-being," said UCLA psychiatrist Dr. Jena Lee.

Which is another benefit of St. Rita's after school program. It eases kids back into gathering together in a more informal setting, while easing them out of a sedentary life style.

"We knew that we needed to do this," said P.E. teacher Shannon Tavera. "Find a safe way to get these kids back to being active, and I think we all feel a little bit back to ourselves."
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