With money from an Indianapolis Public Schools PLAY 60 grant, Jonathan Jennings School 109 is expanding its running track. Currently the school has a thin, one-sixth of a mile track. A coalition of district players and community partners are working to widen and expand the track to a quarter mile.

Representatives from the Indianapolis Monumental Marathon organization laid out the path for the proposed new track. The district’s Facilities Management Division will come out with a Bobcat to dig up that proposed track. Then volunteers from the United Way will be out on May 13 and 14 to help lay border around the track and put down the packed gravel surface.

Indianapolis Public Schools Health and Wellness Facilitator Kathy Langdon said, “The grant that I wrote for Fuel Up to PLAY 60 is about increasing physical activity and learning about healthy habits before and during school. With this mission we wanted to expand the track to give the students a safe place to run before school and to increase opportunities for the community to take part in being physically active.”

On May 14, the school plans to dedicate the refurbished track to Sue Dawson, a retired PE teacher who worked for the district for 42 years and still substitutes for the school. The school’s running team, one of the most active and dedicated in the district, will take the inaugural lap around the new track.

This is just the start according to Jonathan Jennings Principal Kevin McMahan. “This is going to be a process,” he said. “The hope is one day to make the property a full west side athletic complex.”

McMahan’s plans and aspirations include the following:

  • The district is bringing unused soccer goals over from the IPS Professional Development Center at Forest Manor to place them inside the new track, creating a soccer field.
  • Principal McMahan is working with IU Health and the Rehabilitation Hospital of Indiana (RHI) for an outdoor project in the fall that may include widening the track more and laying all-weather surface or possibly putting a bicycle trail on the property.
  • He has had talks with the United States Tennis Association (USTA) about the possibility of installing two tennis courts.

“Another initiative is to upgrade the painting on the playground to include learning while moving when kids are at recess or when they just come to the school to be physically active,” Langdon added.

“It’s rare to have an urban school sitting on this many acres of land,” McMahan said. “We want to take advantage of that.”

Jonathan Jennings certainly is doing that—by transforming their grounds into a great place students, families and the community. Perhaps, one day, the entire district can learn about and maintain active, healthy lifestyles together. We’ll keep watching for these exciting changes!