Some Bethlehem High School students were given the opportunity to opt out of physical education class this year in a new pilot program that could potentially be expanded to help cut costs for the district.
Health and Physical Education Supervisor Fred Powers presented further details about the program to the school board on Wednesday, Oct. 16, and provided with an update on the first few weeks of the pilot program’s implementation.
“The students started the school year in a class,” said Powers, so students could opt to re-join their class at some point.
The program was only open to seniors and participation was subject to a number of requirements. The state Education Department allows for P.E. Opt out if the conditions are met.
Seniors who planned to play two varsity sports could opt out, with the stipulation that the students had played the same sports the year before. The district wanted to make sure students weren’t planning to try out for sports teams just to get out of physical education. Any students cut from the team, or who quit the sport they were playing, would need to begin taking physical education again.
Students who did not play two varsity sports could still opt out if they participated in a sports activity outside of the district. The person instructing the activity had to be certified and students needed to be able to reach achievements while participating in the program.
Powers gave the examples of Karate classes or horseback riding lessons, because the students would receive belts as they progressed or participate in competitions. Powers said 100 hours of instruction is needed.
For any student to participate in the program, certain fitness standards needed to be met in the previous year’s state physical fitness exam in P.E. class. The student would also need to show knowledge of physical fitness subject material.
Powers said about 75 students came to his office to pick up applications for the program. About 51 students actually turned in their applications and 46 students were approved, with five pending.
The district did not give an estimate of the projected saving of the program, but another update will likely be given at the end of the year. Saving would result from a decrease in the number of P.E. classes given.
Powers said the majority of the students who opted out of physical education ended up not being able to replace it with a course because opposite their P.E. class is a science lab. Many took a study hall, and four students regained a lunch period.
“We want to make sure students are using the free period and staying in school, rather then signing out,” added Powers.
He also said he is unsure if the program would eventually be expanded to include other grade levels. While it may be possible to allow juniors in, it would be harder to allow underclassman because the district needs to make sure the students who participate meet certain fitness requirements, and to do so the students would need to take the physical fitness exam in P.E.
“I certainly wouldn’t recommend it for freshman,” Powers added.
Powers said one concern is that a student would quit their sport or activity in mid-year and then be too far behind to make up the P.E. classes in order to graduate.
After the presentation, Superintendent Tom Douglas asked if any of the students in the audience were participating in the program. One girl raised her hand and said it was an advantage because she has an after school job and she is now able to take a study hall and give more attention to her advanced classes.
“It’s a great opportunity for me to study more and do more homework that I wouldn’t have time to do when I’m getting home a 5 o’clock every night,” she said.