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Students celebrated the opening of a new track at one Des Moines Elementary School Monday morning.

Parents at Hanawalt Elementary teamed up with Polk County and Des Moines University to build a new outside play area that won't just benefit the students. It’s called the Community Recess Initiative.

This isn't a normal day of pounding the pavement at Hanawalt Elementary School. 5th Grader Lily Mouw says, "We're celebrating the opening of the new track."

With a few speeches and a ribbon running, the new three lane track is open for business.  Former PTA Co-President Kristen Hall says, "We wanted to do something significant to celebrate 100 years at Hanawalt."

The Parent Teacher Association raised $30,000 for the project. Polk County chipped in $30,000 to $50,000 of in-kind work, including the track, resurfacing the courts and replacing dirt in the field so grass would grow. Students will use the facility before, during and after school.

Dr. Mary Mincer Hansen with Des Moines University says the project will improve health. She says, "A new report out by the Institute of Medicine that talks about how increased physical activity can affect children's problem solving skills, obviously their health and their physical health, but also their school performance."

The project at Hanawalt Elementary isn't just to help the students. The track and resurfaced courts will benefit the entire community. Hall says, "These are the only ones available in a 3/4 mile radius. So, this is really something that the whole community and the neighborhood and the kids and school can use."

Polk County Supervisor Angela Connolly says, “This will be a great thing for them to use as a wellness effort for parents and people who are really in the neighborhood who will use this as a wellness effort."

Mouw says her family already used the new facility. She says, "We come down here. We'll sometimes ride our bikes down the track or scooters.”

The hope is other neighbors will use the facility as well, creating a healthy community.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends all kids get at least 60 minutes of activity a day, and school leaders say the new track will help students and members of the community reach that goal.

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