By Kevin Kelley
The Westlake City Schools Board of Education is considering a policy by which some high school students would be exempt from taking the required physical education class.
Under the proposed policy, students who participate in interscholastic sports, marching band or cheerleading for at least two full seasons would be exempt from taking the half-credit physical education class. Students will have to take another half-credit class in its place if the policy is implemented. A half-credit course in health will still be required for high school students.
Superintendent Dan Keenan acknowledged the policy change would reduce the number of physical education teachers at the high school from four to two this fall. That cut is among 20 teacher cuts anticipated for the coming school year.
Keenan said nine other Northeast Ohio districts have adopted such a policy, which is permitted under state law. While the exemption is becoming more common, Keenan acknowledged it has met some resistance. The exemption policy has been adopted by the Ohio School Boards Association, Keenan noted.
What happens if a student quits the team or is injured during a season and unable to play? District officials are consulting with other districts that have implemented such a policy on how such circumstances are handled.
The exemption policy had its first reading at the school board’s April 14 meeting. A final vote on the policy is scheduled for the board’s meeting on Monday.
Jack Stipek, a physical education teacher at Parkside Intermediate School, spoke out against the proposed policy at the board’s April 14 meeting.
“We feel that every student needs physical education,” Stipek told the board. The growing obesity problem among children demonstrates the need, he said.
The proposed policy is a disservice to students, he said, adding that modern physical education classes are unlike the gym classes many people grew up with.
Keenan praised the district’s physical education staff for promoting wellness and said it was “hard to look them in the eye” and propose the exemption policy.
But the superintendent said it, like the district’s new pay-to-participate policy, was necessary. The high school will still offer physical education classes as an elective and for students not in sports teams, band or cheerleading, Keenan added.