The Howard Drive Elementary PTA recognized a need in the 2020–2021 school year for a focus on wellness — not only from the standpoint of preventing the spread of COVID-19 but also because the pandemic has threatened the health of students and their families both mentally and due to less physical activity. The school’s PTA launched an initiative that has been fostered through multiple programs and purchases that have provided students with both a safer environment at school as well as increased focus on physical and mental health.
As the school year began, fear was abundant among parents, especially when students were able to return to school last October. “We had so many questions about what the school and district were doing to keep students safe,” says Deanna Dalby, principal of Howard Drive Elementary. “Besides protocol detailed by the district, we worked in conjunction with our PTA to provide our school with every safety measure possible to instill confidence that our students were as protected from virus spread as they could be.”
The PTA purchased mask lanyards, and every in-person student received one on the first day of school. Purifiers were also purchased for every classroom, as well as for common areas such as the office and cafeteria. The PTA raised over $5,000 via GoFundMe and acquired two sponsors — RCI Air, Inc., and 4 Chambers Cardiology — who each donated $1,000 towards the purifiers.
School counselor Sueanne Moses spoke to parents at a PTA meeting regarding signs of depression to look for in students and what parents should do if they suspected their child was dealing with any mental health issues. “We are seeing more cases of students having behavior issues or who are withdrawing from social activities in class,” says Moses. “Bringing awareness to parents helps them identify certain warnings they may not have realized were linked to depression.”
The PTA introduced a Wellness Bingo that included activities such as trying a new vegetable, taking a family walk and refraining from playing video games for one day. Rewards were given for the completion of several activities. The program was overwhelmingly successful, with nearly half of all students completing the entire card.
The year culminated with two final activities. The first was the Walk to Wellness, in collaboration with Boosterthon, a company that provides a fundraising program that earns money per lap in a typically on-premises run. The PTA alongside Boosterthon modified the usual programming to account for district and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) guidance, offering an at-home walk that ended at Coral Reef Park. Second, the school’s PTA also applied for several grants over the course of the year and was awarded the Healthy Hydration Grant from Nestlé and Florida PTA, which was used to promote healthy choices in drinks and included an activity that demonstrated the amount of sugar in juices, sodas and other less healthy options.
“Our goal this year was to not only provide health-related programming to students and families,” says Howard Drive Elementary PTA Board member Jane Cannings, “but also to be able to reach every student whether they were in school or remote. At Howard Drive we always say that a student is never just a face in the crowd, and we worked hard to continue to provide that same level of service despite the challenges of the pandemic.”