Students at Frances Tucker Elementary School in Coconut Grove will have a new kind of playground this fall. The school was one of three in Florida that won a fitness center, complete with weight machines for children, Xbox exercise games and treadmills.
Gov. Rick Scott and fitness celebrity Jake Steinfeld, who is chairman of the National Foundation for Governors’ Fitness Council, announced the winning schools last week. Frances Tucker Elementary, located at 3500 S. Douglas Road in west Coconut Grove, was the only school in South Florida to receive the $100,000 Live Positively Fitness Center.
“We wanted to find a school that has community,” Steinfeld said. “Teacher involvement, parent involvement and a true love and understanding of academics and fitness.”
The 960 square-foot fitness center is slated to open this fall with a ribbon-cutting ceremony in October. Frances Tucker Elementary has approximately 400 students — all of them have 30 minutes of daily physical education. The gym workouts will introduce a new kind of exercise, said the school’s principal, Annette DeGoti.
"It's something new to look forward to and something we should build into our lives to become healthy, productive citizens," she said. In an effort to boost community involvement, the fitness center will be open to staff and family members 30 minutes before and after classes.
Schools play an increasingly important role in teaching physical fitness: According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, obesity affects one out of every six children. That number is more staggering for children growing up in poverty—children living below the poverty level are more likely to be obese than their higher income-counterparts.
Frances Tucker Elementary is considered a Title 1 school — more than 95 percent of students receive free or reduced-price lunch.
“I see it as we are responsible for providing beyond the education for children,” DeGoti said.
The Live Positively Fitness Center will also be great for rainy days, DeGoti said, when students have to do indoor activities in place of PE.
The center will hopefully bring a better start to the school than last year, when gunfire shots rang out a few blocks away and a man was killed after hours in front of the school.