Corpus Christi’s Healthy Schools Approach focused on Physical Activity and Mental Health. The school was awarded gold Healthy Schools certification for the second consecutive year. Photo: Corpus Christi
Every year, the Ontario Physical and Health Education Association (OPHEA) conducts a certification and recognizes schools for their efforts in creating healthy, safe and inclusive learning environments.
This year, 34 of the 41 schools that applied, the Hamilton-Wentworth Catholic District School Board (HWCDSB) were awarded the gold certification for being healthy. While three received silver and three others, bronze.
“It’s a testament to the hard work and commitment that each school has shown as well as the collaboration of many partnerships. Most notable is the strong partnership that the HWCDSB has with Public Health and the amazing group of public health nurses that work at our schools,” said Equal Opportunities Consultant John Madalena.
The certification follows a four-step process, which involves forming a school team consisting of a ‘Healthy Schools’ Lead, students, staff, the principal and/or vice-principal, parents, and community partners, according to the school board’s press release.
The team then identifies school priorities and health topics based on student surveys.
Schools choose two priorities from six health topics, including mental health, physical activity, healthy eating, injury prevention, growth and development, and substance abuse.
Throughout the school year, they complete the four-step process, earning points and gaining eligibility for certification.
The certification is flexible and adaptable to the unique needs of each school and is based on their ability to complete the process rather than the number or type of activities undertaken.
The OPHEA Healthy Schools Certification was first introduced in 2017 and only seven schools signed up in the first year.
Since then, the program has seen a 43% rise in participation this year. Madalena attributes this increase to the ongoing impact of the COVID-19 pandemic and the heightened focus on health and well-being within school communities.
“It’s working,” said Maria Marcuzzi, principal intern at Corpus Christi Catholic Elementary School, who served as the school’s Healthy Schools Lead.
“The certification program helped us prioritize health initiatives among many other goals we have as a school community,” she added.
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