Sierra House focuses on health, fitness and mountain sports |

Sierra House focuses on health, fitness and mountain sports

Griffin Rogers

Sierra House Elementary School is considering a name change as it rebrands itself to become a more fitness- and health-based institution with a focus on mountain sports.

Under the transformation, the school plans to promote health and nutrition awareness, refocus the PE program on personal fitness and provide more access to mountain sports. Officials are also contemplating changing its name to Sierra Mountain Academy.

“We are excited about the direction and the unifying power of having this as a school-wide theme,” Principal Ryan Galles said, adding that the school will also focus on increasing parent involvement.

While the new name is still under consideration, the new theme is currently being developed to meet the desires of the Lake Tahoe Unified School District and help deal with overcrowding at Sierra House, Galles said.

About 90 children at the school are enrolled in kindergarten through second grade, and about 70 students per grade are enrolled in grades three through five. As a result of the student population, Sierra House has run into a space issue.

“We have really suffered from not having extra space,” he said.

Next year, the school plans to decrease the number of regular kindergarten classes from five to three so it can make room for things like library space, music space, fitness space and after-school programs.

Sierra House will also be undergoing a physical transformation, which started with the renovation of a playing field last summer. The next step will be installing a dome-shaped green house, along with growing spaces near Pioneer Trail.

About $65,000 has already been raised for the “growing dome,” Galles said, but the school needs about $95,000 and approval from the Department of State Architects to build it.

As for the school’s developing theme, Galles said the concept, as it focuses on fitness and parent involvement, is being built on research.

Research on fitness and the brain have shown that higher levels of physical activity are connected to increases in student achievement, he said. Similarly, research on parent involvement in a child’s education has a “huge impact” on the child’s academic success.

Seth Martin, a PE specialist for LTUSD and collaborator on Sierra House’s new direction, said officials ultimately want students to understand the importance of health, fitness and being outdoors because it will help them throughout their lives.

“We need adults that understand those things and that start to instill that in their kids,” he said. “So the goal is to have these kids at Sierra House become knowledgeable, healthy and active adults.”

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