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Bridge Street Middle School in Wheeling Hopes To Build Outdoor Fitness Center

Money from this year’s CARES Act could help Bridge Street Middle School build an outdoor fitness center for adolescents, adults and community use.

Principal Jessica Broski-Birch approached Ohio County Commissioners this week about the prospect of partnering with the school district to file a Community Development Block Grant Coronavirus Response application with the state of West Virginia.

A school system as a stand-alone entity cannot apply for the grant on its own, but it may partner with a county or city government, according to Broski-Birch.

The state has received $12 million to respond to needs brought by the COVID pandemic, and Bridge Street wants to apply for a $300,000 grant, she told commissioners.

The outdoor fitness center would be constructed on a currently barren and asphalted spot facing Bethlehem Avenue, she said.

“I believe it does fall within that realm (coronavirus response), since we are talking about an exercise space for our students and the community,” Broski-Birch told the commissioners. “I think it is easily accessible, and focuses on low income persons and lack of physical spaces for them as an outlet.”

The school is in a community where it has consistently provided the most free meals to out-of-school students since the pandemic began, she said.

Not only would the adolescent students at the school be able to use the outdoor fitness center, it would also be available for use by the nearby St. Vincent dePaul school and the public after school hours.

It would have equipment not meant for young children like that which can be found on most school playgrounds.

Bridge Street is looking to put in equipment that includes many climbing stations, ropes, and places to stretch and improve strength. Senior adults are seen in photos provided using equipment such as parallel bars to improve their walking and balance.

Broski-Birch said two public hearings would be required as part of the grant application. She expects the first to take place in early February, and the second in either late February or early March.

“I am really excited,” she said. “It’s an expensive grant, and it’s going to take a lot of work. We want people to attend, so we can collaborate on the fitness center. We want to see it used.”

Commissioners said they would be happy to consider the project, and wanted more information. They also suggested Broski-Birch get the Ohio County Board of Education to add their support for the project.

“If it is on the board’s agenda, that makes it more solid,” said Commissioner Zach Abraham, a past board president.

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