W.Va. senator Patricia Rucker promotes online program to keep students active during pandemic
CHARLES TOWN, W.Va. — State Sen. Patricia Rucker is concerned about keeping West Virginia students healthy while they are out of school due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
As a result, Rucker, R-Jefferson/Berkeley, is leading a collaborative effort to reach youngsters statewide and help them stay active by participating in an online fitness program.
Students have been out of school since March 13 and won’t return for the current school year.
Not having a school-day routine coupled with hours of online schoolwork might mean students now are leading more sedentary lives, Rucker said.
“I am concerned that our children may not be getting the exercise and physical activity they need to stay healthy,” she said. “Many of them are also missing out on sports, and they can’t even go to a playground because they’re closed.”
Operation Tone-Up is a nationally known online fitness and nutrition program, and its Health First initiative has been designed to get youngsters moving during the pandemic, she said.
Rucker said she first learned about it during the recent legislative session and since has been working to make it accessible to youths across the state.
“Right now, there is a limited supply of free scholarships because I’ve arranged for some companies to pay so that the kids could do it for the next three months for free or basically until the end of the school year,” she said.
Individuals also have “stepped up to fill the need for a program to help kids stay in shape while they shelter in place at home,” she said.
Any student who wants to sign up after the free scholarships no longer are available or into the summer will be able to pay a reduced rate because the company has agreed to make the program available for $4.99 per person, Rucker said.
Her interest in the program began during this year’s legislative session, when she introduced legislation aimed at codifying what is expected from elementary school physical-education programs.
That experience allowed her to meet others who also had a shared interest in physical education and new ideas about it, Rucker said.
“I think that physical education is also an important consideration now in addition to math, science and history,” she said.
Operation Tone-Up is designed to combat childhood obesity and other conditions such as high blood pressure and diabetes, she said.
• Testing with weekly reports and quizzes
• Structured aerobic exercise and nutrition lessons
• A nutrient calculator
• A daily journal
Rucker said no extra equipment is needed to participate.
Donations received to date mean that the program is “now available on a first-come, first-serve basis for free — without the use of taxpayer dollars,” she said.
But even spending about $5 per month per child can be too expensive for some families, Rucker said.
As a result, she is looking for additional sponsors to provide funding to cover student participation.
Information on signing up for the program, becoming a sponsor or making a financial contribution may be found at