LIMA — According to statistics and first-hand experience, a high school sports-fitness and exercise-science program can be successful.Apollo Career Center and Elida schools officials are banking on both as they partner to offer the program starting next school year. “Sports medicine and exercise science, including physical therapy, is just an area that is going to be booming,” Elida schools Superintendent Don Diglia said. “The number of students that we see leaving and going into physical therapy is pretty intense.”Apollo and Elida will split the cost of one teacher, who will instruct freshmen and sophomores at Elida High School and juniors and seniors at Apollo. Those taking the Elida course are not committing to continue at Apollo, and any student going to Apollo can enter the program regardless of which member school he or she is from. The program will include three tracks: athletic trainer, physical therapy aid and fitness and nutrition. Apollo Superintendent Judy Wells said state statistics show an interest in such a program. Physical therapist and therapist aid, along with trainer, are included in the Ohio Buckeye Top 50 fastest growing occupations through 2018, she said. Projected growth rates range from 23 to 36 percent.Apollo also surveyed alumni, parents and business partners about the possible program. It garnered a 93 percent approval rating.The first two years at Elida will be exploration into the fields, Wells said. Diglia added he hopes to attract any student interested in the medical field. Both schools hope to get at least 20 students for the first year.Functional Accelerated Sports Training (FAST) will assist the schools with curriculum. The teacher, not yet hired, will be someone in the field. Apollo has seen a decline in enrollment and has had to cut some programs with low enrollment. Wells said the school is committed to increasing enrollment and programs like this will help.“We want to move forward and add training programs back in that will benefit students and the community,” she said.Elida also has had to cut, with high school electives taking a big hit.“We hope this program will give our younger people some additional opportunities,” Diglia said, adding that if the program develops and gets enough interest, Elida would like to start its own four-year program. This is not the first partnership between Apollo and Elida. Apollo teachers instruct other programs at Elida, including DECA, industrial technology, vocational agriculture, and family and consumer science . You can comment on this story at www.limaohio.com.