A motion to cut Baldwin High School's physical education requirements in half was shot down by the Baldwin-Whitehall School Board on Wednesday night by a 6-3 vote.
B-W School District administration had argued that reducing the high school graduation requirement for physical education, or "gym class," from four semesters to two would give students the opportunity to take other 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.
Also, students could still choose to take physical education classes as electives after fulfilling their two-semester gym requirement.
But board members Nancy Sciulli DiNardo, Diana Kazour, Larry Pantuso, George L. Pry, Ray Rosing and Martin Michael Schmotzer voted against the measure.
Before voting, Rosing said on Wednesday that he was concerned that students would elect to take study halls in place of gym classes.
"Pine-Richland did this same thing (cutting gym requirements)," Rosing said. "And I know this helps a lot of kids, but what Pine-Richland has now is 420 kids in study hall. Instead of taking extra courses or physical education, they're sitting in study hall.
"If we could revise this somehow, saying these kids can't take a study hall—that they'd have to take gym or another class—that's fine. But to have 400-some kids sitting in study hall instead of taking physical education ... "
District Superintendent Dr. Randal A. Lutz responded by saying that a student's class schedule would not be approved if he or she tried to take more than one study hall per semester, but Lutz acknowledged that a study-hall-instead-of-gym-class scenario could still occur.
Board member George L. Pry said that he would like to see Baldwin High's physical education requirements reduced, but the study hall scenario was enough to sway his vote against reduction.
"I am in total support of the ability for a student not to have to take a phys. ed. and take some other courses (instead)," Pry said. "I am deeply opposed(, however,) to someone who decides ... to opt-out of phys. ed. and take a study hall.
"I don't think that is where we wanna go with this. And that's the issue I have.
"I'm not sure what the solution is. I just feel uncomfortable with this because of that."
In November, Pantuso argued 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," Pantuso said then.
Eleventh-grader and student board representative Victoria Schmotzer applauded the school board's action on Wednesday.
"I think gym's important," Victoria said. "It gets you active if it's only for a half-hour a day. It still gets you active, outside. It's just a fun period."
Tenth-grader and fellow student board rep Jennifer Yanko felt differently.
"Not having as much gym needed for 11th- and 12th-graders would definitely help when it comes to academics," Yanko said. "School focuses on academics first, so it's kind of confusing to me as to, 'Why worry so much about gym when you have it your freshman and sophomore year to take care of that?'
"And also, I don't think that it will affect the BMI (body mass index of students) that much because ... a lot of our students are active (already) in school and out of school."
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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