- Associated Press - Monday, July 7, 2014

BAY CITY, Mich. (AP) - The hard work of a teacher at Bay City’s Kolb Elementary School is bringing a quarter-mile, 8-foot-wide track to campus this summer.

Karen Schultheiss, a third-grade teacher at Kolb, said the new $72,000 asphalt surface - planned for an open area behind the school building - is the result of a yearlong effort that often saw her applying for grants during her free time on the weekends.

“I wanted something that would directly impact the students and staff in the community,” she told The Bay City Times (https://bit.ly/1k6v48R ). “I came up with doing a quarter-mile track, and it kind of went from there.”

Schultheiss said the project was inspired in part by her time as a coach for Girls on the Run, a nonprofit that aims a running-based curriculum at young girls.

“We ran in the streets, on the sidewalks, (with) people falling on the sidewalks,” she said.

Plans for the development, expected to take place this summer and finish in August, show an irregular oval looped through a field behind the school, bordered by existing playground equipment and baseball fields. In the center of the track is an open area, which both Schultheiss and Kolb Elementary School Principal Michelle Kraut say could become a number of things, from a garden area to an Ultimate Frisbee field.

The track itself is what Kraut is most excited about, though, noting that it not only gives kids a place to keep fit, but will help teachers give their kids “brain breaks” - quick walks outside to help them learn better in the classroom.

“Research is saying that kids need to move,” Kraut said. “They need to be active during the day for their brains to work.” Besides fitness, she said the school will also likely see a Relay for Life event and an Alzheimer’s disease fundraiser.

Kraut said construction is expected to start by mid-July, following the conclusion of a tournament at the adjacent Southwest Little League baseball fields. The track is expected to be finished for its dedication at the school’s “Lemonade on the Lawn” open house, scheduled for 6:30 p.m. Wednesday, August 27, and suggested the school might sell bricks at the event to create a pathway leading to the new loop.

The track is being funded privately via school fundraisers and grant donations, the latter of which Schultheiss has pursued throughout much of the year, for a total project cost estimated at $72,000. She said that she hopes to see the project completed alongside parking lot renovations this summer, noting her hope that doing both at once will allow crews to share equipment and share costs.

Kraut said the project is still seeking funding for a final few dollars, given that cost estimates recently jumped up from $60,000 and exceeded previously raised funds. The difference will likely be made up with a loan from Bay City Public Schools’ maintenance budget, she said, to be paid back with grants and fundraiser dollars.

Kraut said no bids have been awarded for the project yet.

Doug Newcombe, superintendent for Bay City Public Schools, noted that he’s pleased to see Schultheiss bring the new development to the school.

“I think it’s awesome,” he said. “She did a spectacular job.”


Information from: The Bay City Times, https://www.mlive.com/bay-city

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