PE part 2
School board weighs pros and cons of phys ed waiver
By Sue Botos
Although school board members have differing opinions regarding the proposed waiver of a required physical education credit, all seem to agree that some provisions need to be made for students with jammed schedules.
“We need to come to an understanding and an agreement,” commented board President Kathy Goepfert during a special meeting called last week prior to its summer recess. The purpose of the gathering was for board members to air any ideas they had about the graduation requirement change prior to its expected passage at the August meeting.
Under consideration by the board is elimination of the current one-credit unit of physical education now mandatory for graduation. This is part of 21 required units, which include four of English, three of math, science and social studies, plus electives.
“I can’t imagine, in the face of the obesity epidemic, that (physical education) is not a core subject,” commented board member Jay Milano, who added that physical education should be considered under the same umbrella as math or science.
He further pointed out that the provision for substituting an activity for gym class does not offer the same benefit. “These activities don’t guarantee lifelong fitness. This is not a legitimate trade-off regardless of the sport,” Milano noted, adding that students who don’t care for physical education class may take advantage of the waiver and will substitute another option.
Speaking to the idea that the waiver should only be offered to students with overbooked schedules, Superintendent Michael Shoaf said that the measure is an all-or-nothing proposition. “This is a policy decision by the board to mandate physical education or not. It has to be made available to all students or none,” he stated.
The idea of substituting “experience” for the classroom is not a new idea. Shoaf said the state provides an option called “credit flex,” which allows students to customize their learning according to their needs and interests. For example, a competitive figure skater can opt out of some traditional curriculum to accommodate a schedule, with the approval of the board.
Board member Jean Rounds, who has been a solid supporter of the waiver since the board first began discussion early in the year, maintained that phys ed could be promoted as an option not just for underclassmen but for seniors who traditionally have more time on their schedules and may no longer participate in sports.
“The students should have that option. They can still take physical education, we’re not taking anything away,” commented Rounds. Referring to the strong band and choir programs, she stated that the same results could happen with gym class as an elective. “Why not give a choice where we are able to do this?” she asked.
Rounds noted the inconvenience of the requirement, stating that students involved in both band and choir often must take phys ed as a summer school course from another district. She said that a summer physical education course was tried but “for whatever reason, it did not work out.”
Even though the physical education part may be waived, board member Jon Fancher pointed out that the health component would still be required. “It seems to me that a lot of the groundwork for lifelong healthy living would still take place in the health class,” he stated.
Milano and Shoaf exchanged words over the process by which the physical education department at the high school was notified of the board’s intentions. “We went through two thirds of the process without consulting the phys ed department,” commented Milano.
Shoaf countered that assistant superintendent Liz Anderson approached the department soon after the waiver was discussed by the board’s curriculum committee. “It’s not fair to comment that she (Anderson) has not been actively involved.” Anderson was not present at the meeting.
At a prior board meeting, several physical education teachers expressed their disapproval of the measure, stating that they had not been consulted regarding the plan.
“This has been on the backburner for many years. There are some exciting things that could be done to promote lifelong healthy living skills,” commented Rounds, adding that if the plan is rejected, other options should be explored for “nonathletic” students.
The board’s policy and curriculum committees will further discuss the measure, which will be decided upon at the board’s August meeting.