Administrators, teachers and students celebrated the grand opening of Van Cortlandtville Elementary School’s new fitness and strength center in Mohegan Lake last week with State Senator Pete Harckham.

Senator Pete Harckham cut the ribbon for the new fitness center with educators, parents and students from Van Cortlandtville Elementary School.

The school’s new fitness center is the culmination of a three-year effort to upgrade indoor gymnasium equipment and make it inclusive for all students, including those with unique abilities.

Harckham was able to secure $25,000 in public funding for the project.

“All of our students thrive when they have the opportunity to exercise their muscles, their minds and their sociability,” Harckham said. “In this new fitness center, these opportunities will be available every school day, rain or shine. So I am happy to see this project come to fruition, and I thank and congratulate the educators, parents , students and other advocates who have helped make this possible.”

In 2019, Margaret Rogers, a now-retired physical therapist for the school district, contacted Harckham about the need for gym equipment for the school’s students with unique abilities. Van Cortlandtville is home to the majority of Lakeland elementary school-aged students who participate in the Aspire program and who require a small student-to-teacher ratio in response to their unique needs.

The indoor fitness center, which used the remaining $13,000 in state aid Harckham secured for the school district, will provide students with daily access to this type of movement, regardless of the weather, helping them build strength, modulate their emotional state and stay focused and have fun with their peers.

“The long-awaited grand opening of our fitness center today was a true celebration of wellness at our school,” said Jacqueline Woodruff, Principal of Van Cortlandtville Elementary School.

“Health and fitness are key components of the well-being of our students and we thank Senator Harckham for his support and his visit today,” said Lakeland Central School District superintendent Dr. Karen Gagliardi. “The addition of the fitness center provides all Van Cortlandtville students with the opportunity to establish healthy habits and thrive in school.”