Janesville72.5°

High school health class could become elective

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FRANK J. SCHULTZ
December 21, 2011
— Health class would no longer be required at Craig and Parker high schools under a proposal by the administration, a move that one critic calls "very shortsighted."

A school board committee Tuesday voted to recommend that the required ninth-grade class become an elective.


The full board likely will see the first reading of the policy change when it meets Jan. 10, said committee Chairwoman Kristin Hesselbacher.


Health classes include an anti-alcohol and anti-drug-abuse curriculum.


Kate Baldwin, executive director of Partners in Prevention of Rock County, said that if the anti-drug/alcohol message is not continually reinforced, it loses its effectiveness.


Baldwin predicted more drug abuse, more truants and discipline problems if the health class is no longer required.


Baldwin pointed out that Wisconsin is a national leader in binge drinking.


"We in Wisconsin and in Rock County are very good at reacting. We're not proactive. Until we start being proactive about drugs and alcohol, we're always going to be behind the game and losing kids along the way, unfortunately," Baldwin said.


Kim Ehrhardt, the district's director of instruction, said phy ed and health teachers will meet in January to work on integrating health topics into the rest of the curriculum.


"We believe that the ongoing attention to this topic across the curriculum in each grade will be more viable than just focusing attention in grade 9, as the current curriculum calls for," Ehrhardt said.


The state requires one health class, anywhere in grades 7-12. Janesville has one-semester health classes in both eighth and ninth grades.


The courses also cover wellness, nutrition, mental health and human growth and development.


The move was proposed as a way of eliminating duplication of the eighth-grade course and to give students more choices, Ehrhardt said.


Students could take a class in art or music, or they could take classes designed to help those who struggle in math or English, for example.


Ehrhardt said he has discussed the change with teachers, who have said health is a strong, popular class, and that they believe significant numbers of students will sign up even if it is not required.


Students will sign up for next year's elective courses at the end of January.


The district also will have more counselors for the high schools starting in January, and one of those workers' many jobs will be identifying students who could use alcohol/drug education and running counseling groups, said Yolanda Cargile, director of at-risk programming.


The district lost four high school counselors this year because of budget cuts, Cargile said.


But a grant application written two years ago has brought in a federal grant that will support 4.5 counselor jobs for three years.



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