2015, july, ThisWeek, ThisWeekNews, westerville

Impact of PE opt-out already evident for district

Enrollment in summer gym class dropped by two-thirds prior to policy taking effect for new school year

Thursday July 30, 2015 11:42 AM
Beginning this fall, Westerville high school students participating in a school team or club sport, cheerleading or marching band will no longer need to take gym class.
If students participate in at least two full seasons of these activities, they will now have the option of waiving the half-credit physical education requirement.
Previously, all students had to complete two 0.25 credit units of PE as a graduation requirement.
Scott Reeves, the district’s executive director of secondary academic affairs, first presented this idea to the school board on Dec. 8. The policy was unanimously approved at the Jan. 12 regular meeting.
Due to the new physical education waiver, only 101 students signed up for summer gym, versus 334 students who enrolled last year.
“Students are taking advantage of this new opportunity,” said Scott Ebbrecht, the district’s director of alternative education services and assessment. “Now, they have room in their schedule to take an elective class of their choice.”
Reeves said the new option provides more flexibility for students.
“Now, students can design their own PE experience. They are still getting that vigorous physical activity that is vital for young people,” he said. “If physical activity is the goal, then let’s give students some flexibility.”
Reeves estimated that about 150-200 students from each of the district’s three high school buildings will take advantage of the new option.
Students still will need a half credit of another elective, and they could choose a class they previously might not have been able to fit in their schedule.
Students are welcome to still take PE if they would like to.
Reeves said that the new policy will not affect staffing because physical education teachers already have a K-12 license so they potentially could be transferred to an elementary or middle school. He also noted that a few high school gym teachers recently retired.
In January 2007, the Ohio General Assembly passed Senate Bill 311, allowing school districts to choose to adopt such a policy to excuse qualified students from the previous physical education requirement.
Board member Nancy Nestor-Baker said the physical ed waiver is something that Westerville parents and teachers have wanted for some time.
“It provides a way for our students to meet their physical education credit needs through their participation in school athletics,” she said in an e-mail. “It’s a good option for some of our young people because it helps them meet their course and credit needs and recognizes the physical training they can receive in extracurriculars.”
She said she expects implementing the waiver will go smoothly, as it has with other districts.
Other districts including Worthington, Grandview Heights, Gahanna, Delaware and Bexley already adopted similar policies, she said.
Participation in previous seasons will not count and neither will roles as student trainer, statistician or team manager. Students must successfully complete the two seasons by the winter season of their senior year.
Those who wish to exercise the PE waiver must complete an application and submit a signed copy to the their high school athletic office.
Applications will be posted on the athletic and guidance websites of each high school.

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