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Reducing PE at BV

MANLIUS –  At a public hearing on Monday, some Bureau Valley teachers spoke out against the school board’s possible decision to seek a waiver that would allow variations in how physical education is currently taught in the elementary schools.

Physical education is required to be taught 20 minutes a day, five days a week. With an approved waiver by the state, classes could be reduced to 20 minutes a day, three days a week.

At the hearing, Superintendent Dennis Thompson gave examples of how the waiver could potentially allow a change in the instruction model for physical education by having physical education teachers incorporate core curriculum concepts into the class. Also, it could allow for a reduction in staff members since the instruction would be cut down by three-fifths. Also, with the waiver, the district would be able to hire an elementary teacher that could teach physical education and also be qualified to assist teachers in other instruction on the two days that physical education wouldn’t be required.

Thompson said he wasn’t recommending the board to decide any of the options the waiver would allow, but reminded the public the waiver would just be an option the board could consider if down the road in a year, they begin looking at areas to make cuts or changes that could make a difference in the budget.

“I’m not going to be here in a year ... If the board has to do something at the end of July next year, and they decide this is one thing they could do which has the least impact — I know it’s bad, but the least impact of other dramatic things they have to do or could do — then they won’t have this option if they don’t apply for the waiver now,” he said. “This just gives them flexibility if they have to do something.”

If the board approves the waiver this year, it won’t be applicable until January.

Carol Larkin, a first-grade teacher at Bureau Valley, was the first to speak out against the waiver.

“In today’s health conscious society, I’m not sure why the district would propose something that would take time away from the physical education program taught by a certified physical education teacher,” she said. “Research shows that physical education improves academic performance; vigorous movement increases blood flow to the brain, which can lead to better concentration and focus.”

Ann Lusher, Bureau Valley music teacher and president of the Bureau Valley Teachers’ Association, said the board’s decisions need to focus on what’s best for students’ education.

“Physical education is a fine art ... just like art, drama, music. They are key to the development of the brain for students,” she said. “We’ve already cut art and music back to three days a week in our district, and now we are talking about cutting physical education taught by a specialist to three days a week from five days. We are really impacting the students in a negative way as far as I see it.”

Lusher argued that if the board moves forward in requesting the waiver that they never consider using it.

“Once it’s easy to cut something, it’s very difficult to bring it back, use it and reinstate it,” she said.

Board member Don King said the last thing the board wants to do is cut things like physical education.

“Do I personally want to cut K-5 physical education? Absolutely not, but I want to have that option in case Bureau Valley School District has that many problems. If we have to cut that, it’s because there’s a heck of a lot more problems than the K-5 physical education teacher. I hope we never have to do it, but having the option is important to have if we have to do it.”

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