Archive for Wednesday, September 6, 2006

School board delays action on heart monitors

Devices would allow PE students to check heart rates during exercise in class

September 6, 2006

Tonganoxie school board members last week postponed a decision on whether to purchase heart monitors for physical education students.

In June, Tonganoxie physical education teachers asked the board to buy wristband heart monitors for students to use during physical education class. The monitors show students whether they're exercising in their target heart rate zones.

At a special Aug. 29 meeting, school board member Darlyn Hansen, whose company in the past year has purchased $350,542 in new and used supplies and equipment for the school district, presented price quotes he'd obtained for heart monitors.

Hansen -- one of five board members who attended the meeting -- said the package the district originally looked at would have cost about $42,000.

"By shopping the marketplace we were able to mix and match using different vendors," Hansen said. "We can still give them what they want, but in a different manner."

By Lisa Scheller

According to Brenda VanLengen, vice president of operations for PE4Life, the program strives to benefit all students, not just those who are athletically inclined. "PE used to be really geared for the athletes," VanLengen said. "That's not what physical education should be. Physical education should be about educating all students and turning all of them on to being physically active and healthy." And that, VanLengen said, could help fight what's been termed the nation's childhood obesity epidemic. For instance, she said, in PE4Life, children can pace themselves. When they're running laps, for example, they can use the heart monitors to see if they're reaching their target heart rates. "Heart rate monitors really show what's happening," VanLengen said. PE4Life, which is based in Kansas City, Mo., started the program at Kansas City, Mo., inner city school, Woodland Elementary, last year. "At the beginning of the 2005-2006 school year, only 19 percent of fourth and fifth-grade students at Woodland Elementary were in the healthy fitness zone, in cardiovascular fitness," VanLengen said. "By the end of the school year, nearly 60 percent were in the healthy fitness zone." The program works, VanLengen said, because through it, children learn about the importance of their own individual health. "It's about individual accountability and improvements," VanLengen said. "It's about helping kids develop healthy habits that will last a lifetime."

Hansen recommended the board purchase the supplies from two companies- Gopher Sport and DBJ Enterprises.

Hansen said Gopher sells heart monitors with curriculum materials as a package. To save money, Hansen said, the district could purchase a certain quantity of heart monitors and curriculum materials from Gopher, and then buy the rest of the monitors -- minus the curriculum materials -- from DBJ at a lower cost.

"It will save approximately $5,000 to $6,000 on the total package," Hansen said. "It's well worth mixing and matching to do this."

Board member Ron Moore questioned Hansen, saying, "I can't tell much from the bid sheet which ones we're bidding on."

Hansen said it would cost about $32,000 to buy the heart monitors for all physical education students in the district.

Moore noted that, according to the information Hansen provided, the district also would purchase "power packs" which include 24 monitors and curriculum materials. A power pack would be needed in the grade school, middle school and high school.

"That needed to be added to the cost," Moore said.

Hansen said the power packs would be an additional $4,600.

"So it's about $37,000," Moore said.

Hansen said, "Yes, but it would be under that."

Moore asked what would be the total cost.

Hansen replied, "$37,000 would cover it."

Significant dollars

After a few moments of silence, Moore asked Erickson about the district's long-range plan in implementing the PE4Life program.

"I know that in the long range, this PE program costs significant dollars," Moore said.

Erickson said it was his hope that the program could be phased in over four to five years.

Board member Richard Dean expressed concern about the program's cost.

"I'm having a little problem with this," Dean said. "From time immemorial we've known that exercise is good for you. ... I just wonder whether this is a necessary expense."

Dean also said he had noted the district had plans -- if and when the PE4Life program was fully operational -- for every child to have physical education every day.

"And that's got to take away from something else down the line," Dean said, adding physical education classes shouldn't take the place of classes such as math or chemistry.

And, Dean stated another concern.

"It seems like whenever we have problems, kid on kid, it's in phys ed," Dean said. "So we're going to be adding to the possibility of the venue of creating problems -- it's just a thought."

Erickson suggested that board members might prefer to wait and would feel more comfortable with a five-year plan that included more specific funding and curriculum information.

Develop a curriculum

Board member Bob DeHoff said, "That wouldn't be a bad idea.

"What I would like to see is more developed curriculum so we know how this stuff is going to be used and how it's going to be implemented. Getting the stuff is one thing, but is it going to be used effectively?"

Erickson said he appreciated the enthusiasm of the physical education teachers who wanted to start a PE4Life program in Tonganoxie. And he said he felt positive the teachers would use the programs materials and curriculum.

"But I do agree with Bob and I agree with you that maybe we need a little more time now to develop this five-year plan and develop this curriculum," Erickson said.

Dean indicated he would go along with what the other board members wanted to do.

"If everybody else wants to go ahead and do that (purchase the monitors now), it's fine," said Dean. "It just seems like it's a lot of money."

Erickson said he agreed.

Hansen added, "I think it will cost more down the road with price increases coming up."

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