Building School-Community Partnerships

By Bruce Buchanan

A federal mandate for school districts to adopt wellness policies sounds well and good --  after all, it’s hard to dispute the alarming rise in childhood obesity and an increase in the number of children diagnosed with Type 2 diabetes.

But for overworked teachers, principals, and school administrators, revamping and overseeing student exercise and nutrition programs falls into the category of “other duties as assigned.” So when looking at efforts to improve student wellness, it makes sense for school boards to look beyond their own staffs and reach out to community organizations for help.

The drawback of these partnerships, of course, is that you must be prepared to relinquish some control. Partners will have their own opinions and compromises may be necessary.

But many districts have found that the benefits of wellness partnerships far outweigh the disadvantages. Community partners can bring resources and expertise that your district perhaps doesn’t have. In addition, a good partner can take some of the burden of wellness programs off the crowded plates of your administrators.

Of course, the key is picking the right partners. And a number of districts across the country have done this and are enjoying beneficial relationships with outside groups that help provide nutrition and exercise services to schools.

And best of all, students are benefiting from these programs by becoming healthier and more active.

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