Ridge Jr. Storage Area Transformed

Ridge Jr. Storage Area Transformed into Fitness Center
Posted on 10/19/2020
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collage of ridge jr fitness centerAn old storage area at Ridge Junior School is a now a place where students and staff can go to improve their physical, social and emotional health.

It all started last year when Scott Laman (who was the school’s Athletic Director) proposed turning the area into a fitness center. He thought it could be something that athletes could benefit from, but more importantly, all physical education students could use. The Ridge fitness center could offer students a fresh, modern day approach to physical education by teaching life-long skills to keep fit, increase strength and agility, and burn calories through cardio and weight exercises. According to the Center for Disease Control, students who are engaged in physical activity -- especially with weight and cardio equipment -- tend to have high grades and perform better on standardized tests, have better school attendance, and have less classroom behavior issues.

Principal Ben Brown and Assistant Principal (now current Principal) Stacey Cahill were ecstatic for the project and how it could benefit the entire student body. And so the work began.

The school reached out to the community for high quality equipment that could be donated to the fitness center (donations are still being accepted). “The outpouring was incredible,” said Physical Education teacher Matt Abshear. “We received everything from top-notch recumbent bikes, dumbbells, and even a leg press machine. While the donations were coming in, teachers (on their own free time) began working on the transformation process.” Teachers Scott Laman, Pat Simpson, Chris O’Rourke and others painted the entire fitness center. A little bit at a time, staff members began removing the old tile floor and installed a rubberized floor. The project was really starting to move along, and then COVID hit.

While the pandemic halted the hands-on work, the team at Ridge stayed in touch and planned as much as they could. With the commitment of the administration, teachers and maintenance staff, the fitness center is now open and the school’s semester-long PE classes have been reimagined. At the beginning of each quarter, students can choose from three different programs: Calorie Crunch, Strength & Agility, or Fit & Toned. These programs take place 2-3 times a week, and traditional games round out the week.

Student feedback has been overwhelmingly positive. “I like the weight area because it helps me become more confident in myself and helps improve my health,” Vlad Kholodov. “I like the challenge it brings more than just playing games in class.” Fellow eighth-grader Dominga Perez added, “I like the program I am using because it is making me stronger and will help me when I am older in knowing how to better take care of myself. I enjoy exercising with my friends and I use their support to help motivate me to improve.”

Ridge’s new Athletic Director Chris O’Rourke said, “It’s great to see the excitement and enthusiasm coming from the students that is being generated by the weight and workout facility. Students have really embraced the workout choices developed for them from Mr. Abshear and Mr. Simpson. Great addition to their education.”  

It's not just students that are excited about the fitness center; Ridge staff members are excited not only for their students, but for the fact that at 3:00, they can get their own workout in too!

Abshear acknowledges that not every school can implement a project like this, whether it is a lack of space, the resources, or even just the desire to have it... he said that “Ridge is uniquely set up for this type of program.”

By the time the project is completely finished (1-2 years), the fitness center will have a new floor, fresh paint, painted murals (thanks to Amy Panfalone and her art club), a ventilation system, three cages, barbells, dumbbells, free weights, kettlebells, bands, adjustable benches, yoga mats, medicine balls, a music system, enhanced Wi-Fi capabilities, technology functions, cardio equipment, and sanitation equipment needed to maintain a healthy and safe environment.

The school’s gym floor is currently being replaced and slated to be completed in mid-November, so the new fitness center is playing an even more important role.

“I am proud of what we have been able to do as a school,” said Ridge PE teacher Pat Simpson. “We are being extremely creative in how we can provide a top-notch physical education program to our students. This is just the beginning of things to come.”