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School boards could let athletes skip gym under new law

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FRANK J. SCHULTZ
December 24, 2011
— High school athletes might soon be able to skip some of their gym classes.

If you like or dislike that idea, tell your local school board.


A state law that went into effect this week allows school boards to decide.


Athletes must take 1.5 credits of phy ed in high school, just like everybody else. Those credits must be earned in three separate years.


The new law allows school boards to grant students a half credit of phy ed—cutting the number of required phy ed credits by one-third—if they participate in sports.


Janesville School Board President Bill Sodemann has championed the idea for several years, and the board twice has proposed the change to the Wisconsin Association of School Boards’ annual assembly, where it was rejected.


Sodemann said he doesn’t know if the bill actually grew out of the Janesville advocacy, but he is pleased it’s now a law.


The Janesville School Board likely will take up the issue at an upcoming meeting, Sodemann said.


Not everyone thinks it’s a good idea, however.


Some say physical education is more than simply getting in shape and learning a sport.


Modern phy ed seeks to get children into the habit of being physically active and showing them the many ways they can stay active and healthy for a lifetime. That’s not something that being a member of a football team, for example, necessarily does, they argue.


The National Association for Sport and Physical Education opposes any kind of waiver of phy ed.


Sports and other outlets such as marching band are great, according to a position paper written by the national association, “but these activities do not provide the content of a comprehensive, standards-based physical education program and thus should not be allowed to fulfill a physical education requirement.”


The state teachers union and the American Heart Association also have opposed such measures.


The new law says a school board may allow a student who participates in sports or another organized physical activity, as determined by the school board, to skip a half credit of physical education by instead taking a half credit of English, social studies, mathematics, science or health.


The law, Wisconsin Act 105, includes a variety of education-related changes. Its most controversial provision allows schools to use state test scores as one of several factors in the disciplining or firing of a teacher.


The bill was OK’d largely along party lines, with Republicans in support and Democrats opposed. Two Whitewater-area Republicans, Evan Wynn and Steve Nass, voted against the bill in the Assembly.



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