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PEP grant in full swing for Monroe
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MONROE - With new water fountains made for filling reusable bottles, fitness equipment, ropes activities and "ga-ga pits," the second year of the Physical Education Program grant is in full swing in the Monroe school district.

"We had a great year so far," said John Ditter, the district's PEP grant manager and a physical education teacher at Monroe High School.

He updated the board Monday on the grant, showing videos of the fitness activities, including ropes courses, and photos of students constructing the pits used for Ga-ga Ball, a game that keeps the players moving. One of the pits was placed at Parkside Elementary.

The students who helped build the pit "were super proud of it, because they put something in the community," Ditter said.

On top of that, the ga-ga pit is supposed to make sure kids are more active and not involved in bullying, he said.

Ditter said the district has incorporated technology such as heart rate monitors, pedometers and iPads in tracking the fitness of students.

Curriculum is also being developed under the PEP grant and will be mapped out for 4K through 12th grade by the end of the 2015-16 school year, said Director of Curriculum and Instruction Terri Montgomery.

Some of the grant money from last year moved forward to this year, adding to the original $268,702 for 2014-15, according to Ron Olson, the district's business manager. The grant is marked down as $368,702 for 2014-15 in the district's operating budget. The final budget will be approved at the annual meeting on Monday.

Olson said he thinks "we're a lot more comfortable now" on the financial management of the grant.

Instructors went through 11 days of training as part of the grant, Ditter said. They take students through ropes activities outdoors and challenges indoors.

Younger students start with easy ropes activities, and as they get older the ropes get increasingly more challenging, according to Ditter. One of the videos he showed demonstrated a ropes course that launches a person - safely attached to a harness - into the air.

"It's super fun and I think kids are going to have a blast with this," Ditter said.

Beyond making physical fitness more fun, the grant should help students develop the skills to continue working on their fitness after they leave school.

"When they get to the end, the kids should know how to do their own workouts and nutrition," Ditter said.