Walton-Verona schools bringing healthy living education to elementary students

WCPOPublished: August 24, 2017
Published: August 24, 2017

A new curriculum at Walton-Verona Elementary School will touch on drugs and bullying as part of efforts to teach the youngest children what healthy living looks like. The district got a $40,000 grant from the state Department of Public Health to pay for the curriculum. It teaches K-4 students about a variety of healthy living topics, from nutrition to drugs and alcohol. "The whole purpose is that we're trying to prevent substance abuse later in life," Kristen Gerrein said. Gerrein is a "SAFE agent" for the school, SAFE standing for Schools And Families Empowered. She describes herself to the students as being like a guidance counselor, but focusing on health and safety. The curriculum also teaches children how to combat peer pressure, how to stand up to bullying behavior and what healthy feelings are like. "We don't necessarily use the word 'suicide' in the curriculum that I'm teaching, but we definitely talk about those sad feelings, the feeling of being alone," Gerrein said. Assistant Superintendent Mark Krummen said the program stems from the heroin epidemic. "We're trying to educate them on the dangers of those things that exist, unfortunately, in our society," he said. The information awareness doesn't end in the classroom. Parents are included for healthy discussions at home, so their children will know how to make healthy choices as they get older. "Alcohol, tobacco, drugs, bullying -- those types of conversations are not easy for parents," Krummen said. "But they're conversations that need to happen." Parents will get letters about what's being taught in school. Also, parent and community meetings are planned to discuss how to talk to children about these topics. If this pilot program is successful, the district hopes it can be implemented statewide.

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