Fitness facility at Two Rivers High School open for public, students

By Tammy Keith Published November 17, 2013 at 12:00 a.m.
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PHOTO BY: Nick Hillemann

Lindy Minnie, elementary PE teacher in the Two Rivers School District in Ola, came up with an idea to get a fitness center on campus that parents and students could use. She partnered with the mayors of Ola and Plainview and received a $10,000 grant to buy equipment for the district’s gym. The free facility is open from 4-7 p.m. three days a week for the public. Minnie also said another goal of the fitness center was to unite the consolidated district.

Two Rivers Elementary School physical education teacher Lindy Minnie said she’s a believer in “monkey see, monkey do.”

Minnie said she hopes a new fitness facility at the school that’s also free to the public will have parents and students making exercise a habit.

“I’m really big into lifetime activities and monkey see, monkey do,” she said.

“If my students see their parents working out, in turn they’re going to want to work out, was my hope.”

Another goal, Minnie said, is to unite a community forced together by school consolidation.

“We used our school as a tool, I guess, to bring our community together,” she said.

The Two Rivers School District is a result of the consolidation 10 years ago of Ola, Perry-Casa, Plainview-Rover and Fourche Valley schools.

A high school in Ola opened in 2010, and all the students came together, creating a new identity.

Minnie applied for an Arkansas Joint Use Agreement Grant, supported by the tobacco excise tax, and formed a committee of educators and one parent.

The goal of the grants is to “meet shared goals and community needs … and increasing opportunity for physical activity,” according to the Coordinated School Health in Arkansas website.

Minnie came up with the idea to create a workout facility on campus that would also be open to the public.

“We talked about some things, and we decided our school would benefit, and our community,” she said.

The $10,000 grant paid for exercise equipment and free weights for the upstairs of the high school gym, and the facility opened in September.

It’s used by students K-12, who are all on one campus, she said.

“I use the equipment with my PE classes, and the coaches use it with their high school PE classes,” she said.

“We use it with everybody; the students, the faculty and several of the teachers use it after hours.”

Members of a nutrition and fitness class also take advantage of the equipment, Minnie said.

The exercise area is open from 4-7 p.m. Monday, Tuesday and Thursday each week for the community.

Students in the seventh grade and up can use the equipment after hours if an adult is with them, Minnie said.

Parent Cheryl Coates, who was on the planning committee, said she walks upstairs in the gym at 6 a.m. while her daughter is practicing basketball.

Coates said she has also used the exercise equipment during the earlier hours that it is open for the public.

“I think it’s awesome,” she said. “We live in a very rural area. We have kids that bus over an hour back and forth to school, so a lot of these kids and parents can’t get into Little Rock — Russellville is the closest — to work out.”

She said that with two children in sports, she doesn’t have time to drive to Russellville to work out, either.

“For me personally, it works out great,” Coates said.

Her daughter, Grace Coates, 14, said she thinks the fitness center is a good idea.

And the students seem to be uniting.

“In PE and stuff, we have to get on teams. I feel like it’s coming together,” she said.

Coates praised Minnie for coming up with the idea.

“She has been a true asset to our school. We’ve had her a few years as a PE teacher. … She’s an awesome lady,” Coates said.

Two Rivers Superintendent Jim Loyd said that when Minnie approached him with the idea, he was on board.

“First of all, I knew it was going to help our students, and I knew it was going to help our community,” he said.

He also saw the project as creating a common good for the consolidated district.

“I’m superintendent of Two Rivers, and I’m going to do what’s best for the Two Rivers School District,” he said.

He echoed Coates’ comments that in the rural community, not all parents can travel to a gym.

“I thought it was a win-win situation for our school and our community,” Loyd said.

A walking area upstairs in the gym wasn’t used much by the public until the exercise equipment was installed, he said.

Minnie said the school partnered with the Ola and Plainview mayors on the grant.

They were responsible for coming up with the walking program, she said.

Ola Mayor Jeff Black said he thinks the fitness center is “wonderful,” mentioning as others did the distance to bigger cities.

“It makes it convenient for people,” he said.

He said the walking program

“isn’t fully implemented.”

Minnie said one idea is to provide incentives for the number of laps walked.

“It’s a work in progress,” Minnie said.

Loyd said he expects the gym’s walking area to be used more now that cold weather is coming. He also said the hours the fitness facility is open to the public likely will be expanded.

Minnie said the other idea was to offer classes — martial arts, gymnastics, and baton and dance.

She said the district partnered with Russellville businesses to provide those activities.

“Parents said, ‘We’ve always wanted to do this, but we couldn’t afford it,” Minnie said. “Lots [of them] are low-income, and they can’t drive to Russellville.”

Gymnastics is on Thursday nights, and “while the kids are busy doing that lesson, the parents can work out,” she said.

Response to gymnastics, martial arts and baton has been “phenomenal,” she said.

“Dance didn’t take off, but I’m going to try that again next year,” Minnie said. Although there is a cost for the classes, she said having them offered locally saves on gas and money spent eating out.

Coates said she thinks the new fitness facility, combined with a new elementary school, has made a difference.

“This has helped. It’s getting a lot better. It’s been a couple of years; I think it was maybe harder for the high school kids,” she said of consolidation.

“The kids have come together better, and the parents have come together better.

“We have a great facility — we have a brand-new elementary now — all on the same campus.”

“It’s been amazing,” Minnie said. “I haven’t heard anything negative; everything everybody said is very positive.”

She doesn’t hear people talk about the individual schools much anymore, she said.

“It’s all one; it’s ‘ours.’”

Senior writer Tammy Keith can be reached at (501) 327-0370 or tkeith@arkansasonline.com.

Niche Publications Senior Writer Tammy Keith can be reached at 501-327-0370 or tkeith@arkansasonline.com.

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