Facility Profile - April 2005
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High-Tech High School Fitness

Buffalo Grove High School
Buffalo Grove, Ill.

By Kyle Ryan

When the new 5,000-square-foot room opened up in 2001, it had 2,500 square feet for selectorized weight and strength machines, and 2,500 square feet for cardio—and it was completely paid off. BGHS was the first high school in the country to incorporate the Fitlinxx program. The first year, the school had 5,000 kids use the equipment after school on their own time. That number jumped to 7,600 the second year. A curriculum change forced the numbers down a bit the third year, but the school is on pace to break 7,000 again this year.

"It's like riding a firework," Scarpino says. "It just blasted off and gone straight up, and there's no stopping us."

By tracking who used the new programs, BGHS secured a couple of grants to help fund more programs. The school partnered with Alexian Brothers Hospital in Chicago to help supervise and review the program. Data indicated that 30 percent of the school's non-white females were participating, a startling number for a high-risk population. The success of the program in Buffalo Grove High School gave Scarpino another idea.

"There are five other high schools with similar populations—why don't we put this in every school, then you would have a district," Scarpino says. "We could be gathering data on 10,000 kids, not 2,000."

That helped secure a government grant, and now all six schools in the district have Fitlinxx—again, the first time that has happened in the country.

"It's simple to use, it reinforces all the concepts we teach in class, it's real time, interactive," Scarpino says. "It's like every kid, when he's working at one of our 34 stations, he has a coach in the computer monitoring his every move—speed and all that jazz. We couldn't be happier."

If the kids participate in one of the school's sports, they have a workout program based on their coaches' suggestions. Other kids use a default P.E. program. They also can access all of their workout information at home via the Internet. The room itself is designed not to intimidate; the only decoration on the wall is some modern art created by students—no macho jock posters or even a school mascot (the Bison).

"When we bring the kids in as freshman," Scarpino says, "we tell them, 'You know, there isn't another place like this in the country. Your parents helped build this thing.'"

That's quickly followed by a directive to use the equipment properly and clean up after themselves, which Scarpino says has not been a problem.

Clean, attentive kids? State-of-the-art workout equipment that's nicer than what's at most health clubs? A principal practically giving a teacher a blank check? High School Bizarro World indeed.

"I enjoy talking to people about this," Scarpino says, adding he sometimes forgets about his unique setup. "It's like, doesn't everybody have this?"

Buffalo Grove High School's Bison Fitness Center: http://bghs.dist214.k12.il.us/Techvisit/Pages/Fitcenter.html

Fitlinxx: www.fitlinxx.com