Citing the district’s progressive health and wellness initiatives and commitment to employee health, the American Heart Association has named the Independence School District a Platinum Fit-Friendly Worksite.

The AHA announces its lists of recognized work places in April and November. Hundreds are recognized with platinum or gold status. The designation is good through next April, and the district can apply for renewal next year.

“You are among an elite group of awardees for this important initiative,” Nancy Brown, the American Heart Association’s CEO, told the group of recognized workplaces in a press release. “We commend your efforts and look forward to seeing you continue to make great strides in the coming year.”

Wellness programs offered by the Independence School District include monthly newsletters, health and activity-based challenges, informational sessions, group exercise classes, flu shots, health screenings and health classes. Its employee health clinic is also open to employees’ families, and the 9,000-square-foot wellness center is free for employees and families, as well as retirees and their spouses. Both facilities opened in 2012 in the district’s central office building.

Independence was one of the first school districts in the central United States to install its own health clinic for employees, and it saves about $1.2 million every year in health care costs, according to a district press release. The district was the first to ever become a captive for worker’s compensation insurance, saving more than $500,000 a year.

Dale Herl, ISD Superintendent, expressed his pride for the award and noted the improved health of employees and millions of dollars saved.

“The district implemented this comprehensive employee wellness program because we value the health and well-being of every staff member,” Herl said in a press release. “These programs allow employees to participate in different wellness initiatives that help support personal efforts to create and maintain healthy lifestyles.”

According to the district, health-related employee absences have dropped almost 10 percent since the district health clinic and wellness center opened, saving more than $250,000 a year in replacement staffing costs. The Independence School District was also honored in 2014 by the Kansas City Business Journal as one of the healthiest employers.