RUMFORD — All those young people, many wearing bright yellow safety vests, seen bicycling around the streets of Rumford aren’t skipping school. They are part of a Lifetime Pursuits physical education class offered at Mountain Valley High School.
The bikes, as well as scores of other equipment such as kayaks, canoes, exercise machines and many others, were purchased with some of the millions of dollars from federal Physical Education Program grants given to the former SAD 43 and SAD 21 over three years.
Todd Papianou, physical education and Lifetime Pursuits teacher at Mountain Valley, said such classes are meant to encourage a physical activity that might be retained throughout life.
“We’re teaching bike safety, but maybe some students will become bike commuters later,” he said.
On Monday, a class of 15 young people were riding in the sunshine near the intersection of Lincoln Avenue and Falmouth Street, practicing the rules of the road they had learned in-class during the previous two weeks.
They were learning the proper hand signals, how to ride with pedestrians present or when motor vehicles were also on the road, among other things.
They were issued maps and charts of the intersection prior to riding loops in and around it, Papianou said.
The bicycles also function as mountain bikes so they can be ridden on rougher terrain.
Later this week, the class will take its bike safety road tests, and when successfully completed, will earn a certificate from the Bicycle Coalition of Maine.
The physical education unit is also a cooperative effort of the Maine Department of Transportation as well as of the coalition.
Another class was also out riding Monday morning. These teens were wearing red vests and were led by Mountain Valley physical education teacher, Chris Tyler. They had just completed a riding loop up to the Black Bridge.
Once Papianou’s class finishes its bicycle road test, he said the next unit will be on kayaking.
Many other activities offered as a result of the PEP grants are also taking place throughout the Rumford and Dixfield area. At the Western Foothills Regional School Unit 10 central office in Dixfield, a weight and exercise room keeps busy most of the time. Similar equipment is housed at Mountain Valley High School.