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I want to congratulate the Wapello School Board on its recent announcement to open the doors a tad wider for alumni at the district’s wellness center.

The 3,299-square foot facility, which was opened in 1992 and added on to substantially in 2015 includes cardio machines, free weights and weight machines. In other words, it’s your basic modern fitness facility.

In a town the size of Wapello, this likely looks like pure gold to anyone who wants to stay fit. The No. 1 key to regularly working out is proximity to a facility. And to have such a facility nearby is a great thing.

It’s also potentially a great thing for the Wapello School District now that it’s open to alumni who are in college and alums who are active in the military, as long as they are under the supervision of a Wapello School District staff member or coach, including board-appointed volunteer coaches, at allowed times.

Others allowed in include Wapello School District PK-12 staff members, administration, coaches (paid or board-appointed volunteer), substitute teachers, and spouses. That entire group will be allowed to use the Wellness Center at their own discretion with no supervision required.

It remains to be seen how well these stipulations will work out, no pun intended. And there seems to be a lot of stipulations.

I would expect further examination and simplification of the rules. I do want to say, it’s great that the district is attempting to open the doors further.

It’s a great way to keep alums involved with the school. I can remember when one district I covered in Michigan years ago added a 3-4 lane indoor jogging/walking track to its facilities. I visited the facility for some reason one winter’s night and was amazed at all the plus-50 crowd walking around the track while on the interior of the gym a game was going on.

I also remember when I was about 22 and a recent college grad. My fellow alumni friends and myself, four to six of us in the same class, would go to our college's huge gym and play hoops for two hours on Sundays. It was great exercise and tons of fun.

But after our first year out, our school IDs no longer would get us in, and we quit going. Now, flash forward several decades later. At least two of these guys (not the one writing this) have had great financial success. I am guessing not one dime has been given to that alma mater. And they aren’t, by nature, Scrooges. But they lost touch with the school. The end result? “No food (or funds) for you.”

Engaging alumni by inviting them back to the district with a perk like a workout facility won’t get every alum to open their checkbook, but it creates a tremendous amount of goodwill and love for the old school.

I know schools fear high insurance rates and a lawsuit if someone were to break an ankle or something. All of that should be handled up front with users agreeing to absolve the district of any wrongdoing in such cases. 

Bringing alums back into the school for a perk should result in nothing but a ton of goodwill and appreciation for the school. And every district can use that.

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