Bluefield Daily Telegraph, Bluefield, WV

September 20, 2013

Fitness innovation: Unique help for McDowell kids

Bluefield Daily Telegraph

— — There is certainly a rich history surrounding the legacy of the old Big Creek High School in McDowell County. The old school was once the home of the Rocket Boys of McDowell County, and was featured prominently in the 1999 motion picture “October Sky,” as well as in Homer Hickam’s popular Coalwood memoirs.

Although Big Creek High School was closed several years ago, and consolidated with the new River View High School in Bradshaw, the school’s old gymnasium is now seeing new life. Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin joined a host of local and state dignitaries Wednesday in cutting the ribbon for the new Live Positively Fitness Center located inside of the old high school gymnasium. The gymnasium is located adjacent to the new Southside K-8 School in War. The gymnasium also is proposed to become the future Thomas Hatcher Community Center in honor of the late War Mayor Tom Hatcher. Hatcher, who died on July 17, 2012, served as the mayor of War for 15 years.

The Southside K-8 School in McDowell County was one of three educational facilities in West Virginia selected as a National Champion School. The local school was recognized because of the efforts of staff members in promoting physical fitness innovation and healthy living standards to their students. The other schools receiving funds were Stratton Elementary in Beckley and Wheeling’s Bridge Street Middle School.

“Southside K-8 made a commitment to fitness and a healthy lifestyle and is being rewarded for their efforts,” Tomblin said. “It is my hope that every child in West Virginia will be inspired by the students at these three winning schools and will pledge to make fitness part of their daily lives.”

As a result of the designation from the National Foundation for Governors’ Fitness Councils, Southside K-8 was awarded a $100,000 state grant that allowed for the purchase of  new physical fitness equipment that is specifically designed for children. The new fitness center will now be utilized by children from Southside.

“We were fortunate enough to receive a grant out of the governor’s office for approximately $100,000 for physical fitness equipment, and we have installed that physical fitness equipment in the old Big Creek gymnasium,” School Superintendent Nelson Spencer said. “We’ve spent this summer doing some major renovations to that building. Our intent in the future is to use it not only for our school children, but also a community center as well.”

The fitness center dedication is the beginning of what will ultimately be the first community center in a McDowell County school. School officials are currently working to obtain grant funding to help develop the community center. Once the funding is secure, the community center will be opened to the public. Until then, the fitness center will be used for grades 5-8. And that’s important.

In schools, physical activity and exercise have been shown to improve academic achievement, increase confidence and self-esteem, reduce discipline problems, cut absenteeism and foster better interpersonal relationships. That’s why the new Live Positively Fitness Center is a welcomed addition to the Southside educational campus. And the future Thomas Hatcher Community Center should be a wonderful asset to the greater War community.

We applaud all involved for helping to make these two worthwhile initiatives a reality. This is a great example of how to make use of an old high school while also helping the community once served by the former school.