A lengthy discussion at the Tuesday, Feb. 26, Board of Education meeting centered on a presentation in relation to exempting high school athletes from physical education classes.
“We’ve never investigated the policy to this extent,” High School Principal Gregory Robertson told the board. “We surveyed 40 schools and spoke with four principals and various professional organizations. We’ve come to the conclusion that there is value in physical education.” He added, however, that there are areas that could be improved and understands why parents have sound reasons to request exemptions. “I hope we can clear this up and show why it’s necessary.” Robertson said he entered the issue with an open mind. “At the conclusion, we decided this is not in the best interest of our students.”
Sean Dowling, District Supervisor of Athletics, Health and Physical Education, said, “We feel it’s in the best interest of the students to take physical education. It benefits the whole child.” He cited concerns about obesity and had talked to students, most of whom, he said, are “very pro phy ed, I’d say the overwhelming majority.” In addition, the curriculum provides “equal opportunity” for all students. Dowling emphasized the value of physical education in relieving stress, team building, problem solving, conflict resolution, compassion and caring. Such opportunities as Project Adventure help students get together with others they might not do otherwise, he said.
The committee consulted with schools in Randolph, Jefferson and Cranford. They were told at one that the exemption was “a bookkeeping nightmare and they got rid of it.” Students became bored with study halls, he said, and asked to be in phys ed classes instead. A major concern, Dowling said, is that the exemption opens a “Pandora’s box” with every organization asking for exemptions. He noted that students in band, musical theatre and other areas also put in long hours, not just athletes. Health education has taken on a bigger role, he said, with emphasis on nutrition, fitness, human sexuality and wellness.