Exercise classes at Farmdale Elementary School in Merced will resume on Jan. 8.
The free after-school community classes have been closed for the rest of the year because Weaver School District will close its doors for the last two weeks of this month, said Claudia Corchado, program manager for the Merced County Central California Regional Obesity Prevention Program.
Those who had showed up to the classes and discovered that there was nothing going on can now feel a sense of relief, since the classes will pick up again next year.
The classes, including yoga and Zumba, have been successful, Corchado said. They began to be offered to the community after school in August.
"We reached a little over 1000 community members," she said. "The commitment from community members and their commitment to improve their health was very inspiring to see."
The classes provide the opportunity for people to be physically active, especially those who can't afford a gym membership, Corchado said. However, next year the goal will be to look for ways to sustain the program.
The $25,000 grant used to support the classes will run out in July or August, she said.
Regardless, Corchado said, this initiative has been an example of how schools can play a significant role in people's health. The regional obesity prevention program is still in talks with Golden Valley High School about the possibility of offering the same classes at the school early next year.
Other schools are following Farmdale's footsteps.
Javier Martinez, principal at Le Grand High School, said the school received a $125,000 grant from Building Healthy Communities, an initiative of The California Endowment, to help enhance similar work at the school.
The school will use some of the money to revitalize its athletic track so the community can use it, Martinez said. The school will redo its weight room and use a portion of the money to buy some gym equipment for members of the community to use as well.
In addition, the school is offering Zumba and nutrition classes after school, he said.
High obesity rate
A 2011 study by the UCLA Center for Health Policy Research found that 43.7 percent of Merced County children in fifth, seventh and ninth grades were obese or overweight in 2010.
Martinez said that in some rural areas, the obesity rates are even higher. That could be because there are no appropriate sidewalks, he added.
Zumba classes in Le Grand take place every Tuesday and Thursday, with the first session starting at 5 p.m. and the second session at 6 p.m. The nutrition classes take place every Monday and Wednesday, with the first session starting at 5 p.m. and the second session at 6 p.m.
"In order to start attacking the (obesity) problem you need to offer some opportunity for them to do that," he said of the after-school activities that are free and open to the community. "This is the perfect place for them. It's a safe place in which they can exercise."
And people will save money, he said.
"We would be delighted if they were to stop by and give us the opportunity to help them out," Martinez said.
Reporter Yesenia Amaro can be reached at (209) 385-2482 or firstname.lastname@example.org.