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Normal Park parents plan neighborhood party to raise money for gym

The Lower School of Normal Park Museum Magnet does not have a gym. Physical Education classes take place on a stage in the auditorium.

UPDATE: Organizers tell us the fundraiser ended up raising $3457 for the cause.

ORIGINAL STORY:

Academics are the biggest priority at every school, but keeping kids active and healthy is another key component.

However, at one Hamilton County school, there is a major limitation when it comes to physical education.

The Lower School of Normal Park Museum Magnet doesn't have a gym. Instead, they use the auditorium.

Physical Education teacher Brad Cowell has been at the school for seven years.

He says the biggest challenge is safety. The kids do their gym activities up on the auditorium stage.

A net serves as a barrier to ensure the kids don't fall off.

"They used to run around the chairs for warm-ups and I don't feel like that's safe so I don't do that," said Cowell.

Parents like Jennifer Melda say they're concerned.

"The children need more space to run," Melda told NewsChannel 9. "They need to be able to do more activities that they can't do in a limited space."

She and several other parents are rallying together to raise the money needed for a gym.

They have attempted to request the funding from the county commission and the Department of Education in the past, without success.

"We realize the limitations of funding and we're really trying to make this a grassroots effort on our own," said Principal Blake Freeman.

On Friday, they are hosting "Family and Neighborhood Night" at the school to work towards their $500,000 goal.

Melda says it's a chance for the school community to come eat, play, and get to know each other.

"Playing on the playground, having hot dogs and hamburgers," said Melda. "We do have a parent who's a Zumba instructor and so she's going to lead the kids in Zumba."

Cowell says a new gym wouldn't just make a difference to his class. It could help the school overall.

"There are numerous studies on physical activity and getting your energy out and being able to focus more," said Cowell. "I'm a huge advocate for fighting childhood obesity as well and we have students in this building that could use more exercise, and I can't provide it for them here."

He's hoping that sometime in his next seven years, he'll be able to say he's a gym teacher with a gym.

"We've already contracted with a developer to draw up the plans and we have the location," said Freeman. "The plans are in the works. We just need the funding."

Friday's event will last from 5:30-7:30 p.m. on the Lower School playground and field. It costs $7/person.

To make a donation to the Normal Park Gym Fund, click here.

We asked the Department of Education where Normal Park's gym ranks in their list of priorities.

Assistant Superintendent Lee McDade told us the new school board will be responsible for making that decision.

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