BONANZA — It’s dangerous to get caught eating Cheetos at Bonanza School.
A school administrator allegedly made the mistake of eating the bright orange snacks at the school recently, said Susie Grohs, Bonanza PE specialist and health teacher. The administrator was promptly told, “You’re in the wrong building to be eating that.”
The K-12 rural school with a student body of 400 and a staff of 50 is fostering a culture of healthy eating, activity and exercise. Teachers are more often eating cauliflower or an apple than Cheetos, Grohs said, or drinking water instead of soda.
The Bonanza staff is leading the way to schoolwide health. It has collectively lost 1,000 pounds through Weight Watchers since January 2011, put on after-school Zumba classes and hosted potluck-style Salad Wednesdays.
This healthy atmosphere earned Bonanza School a 2012 Oregon School Wellness Award, announced this month, from the Oregon Department of Education. Bonanza was one of three schools named this year.
Wellness has been a priority at Bonanza for several years, said Grohs and principal Jim Libby.
The school has secured grant funds to ensure there are half-hour PE classes in the elementary grades in addition to three 15-minute recesses.
Bonanza, along with other Klamath County School District schools, is also a member of the Alliance for a Healthier Generation, a national organization working to reduce childhood obesity.
As members of the alliance, schools form a wellness committee. While some schools had trouble finding committee members, Grohs said Bonanza staff members were jumping at the chance to get started.
“Bonanza just took off with it,” she said.
The committee focused on nutrition and physical education. Its work paid off in 2011 when Bonanza was among Klamath Basin schools given a bronze award from the alliance.
The wellness work carried over this year, perhaps most notably in the after-school Zumba class, which started in January, led by first grade teacher and football coach Louie Idrogo.
“It’s a full-body, core workout,” Idrogo said.
Zumba is an exercise involving dance — including hip-hop, salsa and Latin — and aerobics.
Idrogo started Zumba in June 2010. He was at the Klamath Falls Family YMCA and heard some heart-pounding music. He peeked inside to see a room full of women dancing, jumping and moving to the music. It took him a few weeks to get his courage up to be the only man to join, but once he did, he was hooked.
“I knew it worked because I came out soaked and smiling,” he said.
Idrogo dropped nearly 60 pounds, going from weighing 210 to 153 pounds. A year later, he was certified to teach.
At Bonanza he teaches a staff class on Monday, Wednesday and Friday, and community classes on Tuesday and Thursday.
Staff who participate love it, too, Idrogo said.
“It’s not a workout, it’s a party,” he said. “Just the attitude has been phenomenal. People are upbeat, smiling.”
Grohs has noticed an upbeat in staff attitudes, too.
“People are happier, they look better, they feel better,” she said. “It’s amazing how good people feel about themselves.”
That fun feeling has spilled over to the students, too. She said students have noticed the difference in their teachers.
“We’ve had several kids come in in September and say ‘I didn’t know that was you, you’ve lost so much weight, forgive me for not saying hi,’ ” Grohs said.