Focus on wellness for school staff

Published 8:31 pm Thursday, August 22, 2019

The beats were pulsing, the teachers were dancing and all got a vibrant and healthy welcome to the 2019-2020 school year through Suffolk Public Schools’ Wellness and Benefits Fair Thursday at King’s Fork High School.

There were stations throughout the school in which more than 1,000 teachers and other staff from across the division could get a biometric and mammogram screenings, exercise and hear about the various benefits from more than 15 vendors.

A DJ also played music and staff from schools across the division had a chance to eat and get to know one another in a relaxed setting. Some even came away with prizes that were donated from one of more than 20 businesses.

This is the first time in six years that there has been a wellness fair, according to SPS Executive Director of Finance Wendy Forsman. With a new wellness specialist, Anne McCoy, and an increased focus on wellness, the school division wanted to highlight its wellness program.

“We want all of our employees to understand there’s a program out there for them,” Forsman said. “And we wanted to give them an opportunity to speak to our benefits vendors, because they don’t see them face to face every year. So we want to give them an opportunity to ask questions and gather information about that, and we just want to thank our staff.”

Forsman said more than 200 people made appointments for biometric screenings. Appointments for the mammogram screenings from Chesapeake Regional Healthcare’s mobile mammography unit, done over a two-day period, filled up in two weeks.

“Our staff are really taking advantage of the things we can offer,” Forsman said.

In the auxiliary gym, there was line dancing, Zumba and other exercise demonstrations, Anthem gave three presentations, and there were demonstrations of the Virgin Pulse wellness tool.

Everyone who showed up also received wellness points to start the new program year.

Jan Montgomery, a second-grade paraprofessional at Creekside Elementary School, said she and her colleague, Mary Keiser, came to get the biometric screening.

“It was nice for them to sit down and go over every single thing, every test, the cholesterol, the weight management, everything, to go over everything and give us resources as to what we can do to help out,” Montgomery said.

Keiser, a Creekside colleague of Montgomery’s and a kindergarten paraprofessional, said it was good to get to know some other people that she doesn’t regularly see.

“It’s just nice to come out and mingle with the other schools from different people that we don’t really know,” Keiser said.

She said Creekside will be starting a walking group and hosting other stress relief activities in the mornings to build off of the Wellness and Benefits Fair.

Forsman said she is hopeful the event can continue in future years. The event, she noted, was put on at no cost to the school division. Prizes, services, games and even the DJ were all donated for the event.

She credited everyone, from the school nurses, the wellness champions at all of the division’s schools, food service, bus drivers, Suffolk Police Department and more. Forsman said this is the type of event that builds morale.

Said Forsman: “It’s everybody doing it together. …  We couldn’t do this without people willing to help.”