Thunder Bay

Northwestern Ontario school board promotes healthier living

A Northwestern Ontario school board is going all-in on healthier living for its students and staff this year.

Keewatin Patricia School Board registers all of its schools for OPHEA's Healthy Schools certification program

Beaver Brae High School in Kenora, Ont., is one of the Keewatin Patricia School Board schools taking part in this year's OPHEA Healthy Schools Certification program. (Keewatin Patricia District School Board)

A Northwestern Ontario school board is going all-in on healthier living for its students and staff this year.

The Keewatin Patricia District School Board has registered all 20 of its schools for this year's Ontario Physical and Health Education Association (OPHEA) Healthy Schools Certification program.

It's the first school board in Ontario to do so.

"We know that active healthy living and exercise is important for everyone, and particularly youth," Sean Monteith, the board's director of education, said in a statement. "Being physical and in turn promoting physical and mental well-being has become a priority for all of us in our schools."

A six-step process

Under OPHEA's program, the schools will each choose an area to focus on this school year, said Sarah Christie, a project leader with OPHEA.

"There's six health topics that they can choose from: physical activity, health eating, personal safety and injury prevention, growth and development, mental health, and substance use, addictions, and related behaviours," she said. "We really encourage schools to look at these health topics as inter-related, but we do ask them to pick one just because it just gives them something to focus on."

Schools will then follow a six-step process, which aligns with Ministry of Education guidelines, during the year, she said. At the end of the year, schools could earn bronze, silver, or gold-level healthy school certifications depending on how many points they earn.

Happier, healthier students and staff

Christie said more than 350 schools in Ontario are signed up for the program this year, and that number continues to grow.

"I think it's really great, because it is so customizable, it is so individual to each school community," Christie said. "It's six steps, but it looks very different in every single school, and I think that is one of the biggest strengths of healthy school certification."

"It encourages people to really, really think about not just what they're doing to be happier, healthier, but how they're doing it."