Citing a 17-percent obesity rate among U.S. children, Larry Pantuso of the Baldwin-Whitehall School Board objected to a recommendation made by school administrators on Wednesday night to cut Baldwin High School's physical education requirements in half.
At Wednesday's school board meeting, B-W School District Director of Curriculum Andrea Huffman laid out an idea for board members to consider: Require students to complete only two semesters of physical education in order to graduate from Baldwin High, down from the current requirement of four semesters.
Administration says that it can do this while not upsetting the amount of credits that students need to graduate. Right now, one semester of physical education, or "gym class," is worth one-quarter of a credit at Baldwin, and if taken once every school year, students would earn the one credit of physical education required to graduate.
But, as Huffman pointed out on Wednesday, gym class takes up the same amount of instruction time as the school's half-credit classes, so her recommendation is to weigh physical education as a half-credit class and require graduates to take the class just twice.
Students could still choose to take physical education classes as electives after fulfilling their two-semester gym requirement. And B-W's Assistant Superintendent Denise Sedlacek said that freeing up those extra two class periods per student for choosing electives will give students more opportunities to take classes that interest them or that could help their careers. They could elect to spend more time at Steel Center Area Vocational Technical School, for example.
"It's really going to give our kids an edge up as to what they can take," Sedlacek said, referencing classes in the arts and industrial technology that may see an increase in enrollment.
A decrease in the amount of students in each gym class may come along with that, Sedlacek said, meaning increased attention for each physical education student, especially those that choose to continue taking gym classes after meeting the two-semester requirement.
As Huffman said, "Our goal, certainly, is to meet the needs of every student."
But Pantuso was not convinced, arguing that it's important to give all children the exercise each year that physical education classes offer.
"That may be the only physical activity that those children get during the course of their day," he said.
Fellow board member Nancy Lee Crowder, however, pointed out that physical education was never a year-round requirement for each Baldwin student.
"I find it hard to believe that it's going to affect BMI (body mass index) a great deal," Crowder said. "What do they do the other semester (of the school year)? They don't even have a gym class (that semester)."
Jennifer Yanko, the school district's student board representative for the sophomore class, agreed with that statement from Crowder and also pointed out that the high school has been making other strides to lower students' BMI, such as instituting a healthier lunch menu.
Before they approve or reject the administration's recommendation, board President John B. Schmotzer said that he would like his fellow board members to see a survey done of current Baldwin underclassmen, asking them what they would do with their freed class periods if the physical education requirements were to be cut in half. (Schmotzer officially resigned from his board seat on Wednesday.)
The board will make a decision on the administration's recommendation at a later date.
Read through other Baldwin-Whitehall School Board items here.
And check back with the Baldwin-Whitehall Patch on Thursday for more news from Wednesday night's school board meeting.
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