Joplin teachers see USD 458 as model for rebuilding
Mike Lawrence and Alan Linden had planned to visit Basehor-Linwood High School this past summer to observe the school’s weights and conditioning programs.
But something else consumed the schedules of the two Joplin, Mo., teachers and coaches during the summer: clearing debris left from the catastrophic tornado that struck the city in May. So when the coaches eventually made their trip to BLHS last week, they did so with an eye not just on improving, but also on rebuilding.
Lawrence teaches middle school weights classes and coaches middle-school football and high school track. He said Linden, who teaches marketing at Joplin High School and is an assistant football coach there, saw BLHS strength and conditioning instructor Ross Schwisow speak at a Kansas University conference in the spring.
Lawrence and Linden, who typically visit weights and conditioning programs at area colleges several times per year, were struck by the scale of BLHS’ conditioning program when Schwisow talked, Lawrence said. They were impressed after their visit, too, he said.
“It was one of the best visits we’ve gone on,” Lawrence said, “including college and university visits.”
Basehor-Linwood’s use of a full-time strength and conditioning instructor and coach, as well as the high levels of participation in conditioning programs by students, are rare for a high school, Lawrence said. He and his colleague had hoped to swap some ideas about installing a similar program in Joplin, he said, and that idea has new significance now that the school district there will be rebuilding its high school after it was destroyed by the tornado in May.
All the equipment in the high school’s weight room was destroyed, Lawrence said. Classes are taking place temporarily in a section of a shopping mall, he said, and the district is preparing to demolish the remnants of the old high school building soon.
The district has bought some new weights equipment using funds from the Federal Emergency Management Agency, and some equipment was donated to the district as well, Lawrence said.
“I think we’re up and running as best as could be expected,” Lawrence said.
The coaches spent one day in Basehor — Wednesday, Dec. 7 — and observed Schwisow’s weights classes and his after-school conditioning program.
About 270 students are enrolled in the classes, and about 200 come in each day for the after-school program, Schwisow said, including athletes and students who participate just for the health benefits. The program draws a handful of outside observers each year, he said, partly because of its success with participation.
“We have an idea here that seems to work for us, and I think a lot of people want to see how to apply it,” Schwisow said.
Lawrence said Joplin district administrators were also intrigued with Basehor-Linwood’s use of a FEMA grant for nearly $1 million in building its Health and Wellness Center, which opened in 2010 and now houses the school’s weight equipment. The building doubles as a tornado shelter.
The school’s facilities and instruction in the area of strength and conditioning were both of unusual quality for a high school, said Lawrence, a former strength coach at Missouri Southern State University.
“It’s top-notch,” Lawrence said.
Schwisow said he planned to keep an eye on how the Joplin schools’ strength and conditioning programs come along as the district rebuilds.
“It’ll be nice to see how that develops out there and how they do with it,” Schwisow said.