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'WellVille' classroom at Ward Melville High School cost more than $14G

A Three Village school district official gave a tour Sept. 17 of a wellness room at Ward Melville High School called WellVille, where staff can relax and recharge, lunch and learn or get free counseling. (Credit: Newsday / Joie Tyrrell)

A wellness room for teachers and staff that opened this school term at Ward Melville High School cost more than $14,000 to create, according to information obtained through a Freedom of Information Law request.

The "WellVille" classroom in the Three Village School District was transformed into an "experience" for teachers and staff to relax and recharge, with soft lighting, relaxing music and lounge chairs, school officials said. Funding came from an anonymous donation of $10,000, and the remainder through the general fund budget, according to the district.

Superintendent Cheryl Pedisich said the space, which is unique among public schools on Long Island, "has been very popular and well-received by staff." She said districts nationwide have reached out to Three Village to implement similar efforts.

The room was renovated with new window blinds, soft colors, lighting and flooring, which was the most expensive item — more than $7,500 — to install, according to documents obtained by Newsday. The flooring bill included purchase and installation of a luxury vinyl tile in a style called Heritage Plank.

A massage chair for the room cost almost $700, and six zero-gravity lounge chairs cost $75.99 each.
WellVille is a two-year pilot program, the district said. The room at the East Setauket school is available to all levels of staff, from teachers to security to clerical workers. It is located on the second floor, in a hallway sandwiched between lockers and traditional classrooms.

The motto for the room is "Live Well. Work Well," and it also features inspirational messaging, an essential oils diffuser, foot massager, salt lamps and a calming water feature. Workshops are held in the room for staff, including a recent series on nutrition and healthy eating during the holidays. There's even a space to work on jigsaw puzzles.

The room was created and designed by Debbi Rakowsky, the district's wellness social worker who wrote the proposal for the program and designed the space. She also offers counseling to staff in the space. 

Rakowsky said she has heard from other districts on the Island and nationwide about the concept.

Kim Cooper, a special education resource teacher from Saskatchewan, Canada, inquired about the space, saying her school has "started a wellness committee and are creating a Rejuvenation Room as well." She is working with the local teachers association on developing a wellness committee.

Rakowsky said she also has heard from school systems in New Jersey, Wisconsin, Florida, Texas and others.

"It has been amazing and everyone is really interested in trying to make it happen," she said. Rakowsky said about 20 to 30 people use the room on an average day.

Marven Joseph, a special education teaching assistant, is a frequent visitor.

"It’s a great place to come to relax your mind," he said.

COST OF WELLVILLE

According to a Freedom of Information Law request, here are some of the costs associated with WellVille:

  • Three custom cordless single cell shades, $81.99 each
  • 3.3-cubic-feet refrigerator, $128.74
  • Two exercise foam rollers, $18.90 each
  • Massage chair full body recliner, $699
  • Two chalked chestnut coffee tables, $206.13 each
  • Stoneware bowl and Jar indoor-outdoor LED fountain, $309.95
  • Two white noise machines, $28.99 each
  • Inspirational engraved stones, $25.95

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