USD 373 administrators knew the destination they wanted to reach: improved health and wellness in the district. However, they recognized they didn't have a roadmap of how to get there.

The district recently was awarded a $10,000 "Healthy Kansas Schools" grant, which will help the district's health and wellness committee move forward and develop a more clearly defined mission.

"We're locked into what we have done in the past," said Superintendent Deborah Hamm. "... We're just going to take it to the next level."

Within the past year, the district combined two separate committees — a wellness committee for students and community members, and a health and wellness committee for staff. However, Hamm said the combined group has been struggling to find the right direction to go.

In applying for the grant, USD 373 had to share school demographics and demonstrate a need for grant funding; discuss the problem and barriers to moving forward; and explain why the district was ready for the grant.

The grant will allow USD 373 to bring in experts from the Kansas Department of Health and Environment to talk about best practices and research, and help the district become more innovative.

Hamm would like to see a more unified vision for health and wellness across the district. Examples of ideas USD 373 could explore to improve health and wellness include increasing physical education time or creating after-school programs. Hamm also hopes to be able to send all six of the district's school nurses to an annual school nurses conference in San Antonio.

While Hamm is excited about moving forward, she also praised school staff for their past accomplishments in health and wellness, which will provide a foundation for the new plan. Some activities the district already promotes include before-school walking programs and family fun nights with physical activity and nutrition education. The school also has made connections with community partners, such as the Rec Center, Newton Medical Center and the Health Department.

"The district has been very supportive of activities related to both staff and student health and wellness issues," Hamm said.