The Buena Park School District took home a top award from the 2009 Governor's Challenge Awards, sponsored by Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger's Council on Physical Fitness and Sports.
The Buena Park School District received the "District Champion for Fitness" award for their new and innovative fitness improvement program called "Coordinated Approach to Child Health" (CATCH). In 2007, only 40% of the district's 5th grade students passed the California Fitness Test and 40% were overweight. District officials took notice and that's when the CATCH program was started. Whitaker, Pendleton and Gilbert elementary schools were chosen as the pilot schools, and 1,000 students in 4-6 grades were chosen to participate.
The first year results showed a positive impact on the health and well-being of the participating students. Sheer minutes of physical education instruction increased by over 50% and teachers reported providing more moderate-to-vigorous physical activity in each physical education lesson than ever before. Teachers now use FITNESSGRAM for physical fitness testing two to three times a year, and parents, students, and teachers get to see the results immediately. Preliminary data also showed a substantial increase in the number of 5th grade students who passed the California Physical Fitness Test as well as increases on standardized test scores.
The school district worked closely with the Orange County Department of Education and Network for a Healthy California, and the project is easily replicable by other school districts. They were rewarded with a $5,000 check to purchase physical activity equipment and a $1,000 CVS Pharmacy gift card. Other corporate sponsors included the Anthem Blue Cross Foundation, General Mills, and Kaiser Permanente Thrive.
The Buena Park School District has six elementary schools and one junior high school. It serves approximately 5,800 students, of which 60% are listed as low-income and 58% are of Hispanic origin. The district is now hoping to expand the CATCH program to all schools sites and every grade over the next three years.