By Sue Botos
A proposal by the school board to allow high school students involved in activities considered sports by the Ohio Department of Education to waive a required health and fitness credit has teachers of those subjects up in arms.
Health and fitness instructors from Goldwood Primary, Kensington Intermediate, Rocky River Middle and Rocky River High schools voiced their negative opinions to the board at its committee session last week. According to the revision, students participating in activities such as sports and marching band can replace the one physical fitness credit required for graduation with another elective. Their activity will not be considered a substitute, and students not participating in a recognized sporting activity must still take the two semesters of fitness.
Board member Jon Fancher explained that during discussion with the district curriculum advisory committee over the past year, feedback has been positive. He added that due to the restraints of the high school schedule, students participating in multiple activities “get pinched” timewise, and sometimes have to drop a class, such as choir, for a semester in order to fit in all of the required courses.
Currently, 21 units of credit are required for graduation. These must include four units of English, three of math, science and social studies, and one credit of a required elective (business, fine arts, technology or foreign language) and physical education.
During a meeting earlier in the year, board curriculum advisory committee representative Jean Rounds stated that some students, such as those in both band and choir, must take physical education classes during the summer, or drop out of an activity to accommodate the requirement. “The students were excited about it,” she stated, adding, “It’s just one period on one year out of four, but it still offers flexibility.”
While the health and fitness teachers agreed that there are many forms of physical fitness, they felt their classes offer much more. “My main focus is preparation for after graduation,” stated high school teacher Julie Achladis. Referring to Lake Erie and other recreational opportunities offered by the community, she said that school was the place to learn skills that could result in participation later in life.
“I’m going to be most sad about swimming and weight training,” she noted. She related a story of how a former student had used his water safety training, which is taught during swim class, to remain calm during an emergency.
Rounds defended the students’ right to choose. “I got excited reading about electives that could be (selected). We’re not saying you can’t take a health and fitness class, it’s just good to provide options,” she stated.
Achladis countered that students would not be challenged without required activities. “My concern is that kids will take what they are already good at,” she said, noting that those afraid of water will not take swimming.
The teachers also pointed out to the board that they had not been consulted in regard to the plan. “This is detrimental to our curriculum and to our students,” said Liz Fougerousse, fitness teacher at Goldwood. They added that curriculum plans they have brought before the board and administration have been “shot down.” It was also mentioned that students often load up on required courses during their first two years, and could have time for the physical education credit during the junior or senior year.
Mike Murray from the high school commented, “We’re all professionals and will do what you decide.” He suggested that a high school schedule that allowed for more flexibility could offer students more choices.
Assistant Superintendent Liz Anderson said that many options are still being considered, including the requirement of some classes such as swimming or weights. Using figures from the past school year, she said that about half of the high school’s 864 students would have been eligible for the waiver. She added that the state will soon be putting fitness assessments in place for students, but that those who waive the fitness requirement will not be assessed.
Anderson said that a “flex credit” option has been available for a number of years, which allows a student to substitute alternate course work in various areas of study, providing it meets academic standards and is approved by the administration.
The board is expected to continue discussion of the waiver at tomorrow’s legislative session. If approved, the earliest it could be put in place is the 2013-2014 school year.