New physical activity requirement discussed

Published 10:21 am Wednesday, December 20, 2017

House Bill 357 will soon require all public school students K-5 to engage in at least 100 minutes of physical activity a week, according to Superintendent of Charlotte County Public Schools Dr. Nancy Leonard.

Nancy Leonard

A summary of the bill as introduced said House Bill (HB) 357 “requires at least 20 minutes of physical activity per day or an average of 100 minutes per week during the regular school year for students in grades kindergarten through five.”

The requirement will become effective during the 2018-19 school year.

However, Leonard noted that two elementary schools in the county do not have indoor gym facilities.

“Our discussions have been that for the two schools, which would be Bacon (District) and Phenix, do not have gyms,” said Leonard, “so in inclement weather they may go to a classroom or to a mobile unit, and they may play quiet games, board games, seated games, etc. That would not meet the physical activity requirement.”

She said part of the discussions have revolved around what to do for Bacon District and Phenix Elementary schools, since the requirement would become effective next school year.

“That is a challenge before our school board,” Leonard said.

Chairman of the Charlotte County Board of Supervisors Gary Walker said, “It does present a challenge for us … we have to supply some means for the children to meet that code …”

He asked if funding could be withheld if the requirement was not met, to which Leonard said, “There are challenges there that we would not be meeting that requirement …”

“The house bill that requires the children 100 minutes of physical activity for K-5 is a real challenge for our older schools that just don’t have the gym that Eureka has,” said Leonard.

The new requirement will take effect July 1.

“The current requirement for a program of physical activity available to all students in grades 6-12 with a goal of at least 150 minutes per week on average during the regular school year is not changed,” said the summary of HB 357.

“I feel like you’re missing some real opportunities by delaying the decisions on the school, and I think that the school board has not been forthcoming on some of the opportunities that could pass by if you don’t look at some options … Building a gym is not going to solve all of our problems,” said Red House/ Cullen Supervisor Dr. Nancy Carwile.

She said other options should be considered.

“There is an option that has been in the air, but the school board has never presented it and that is to save money,” said Carwile. “… That option could be to do as Appomattox did, which is to take Eureka and use it as an upper elementary school for the time being and build a primary school like they have in Appomattox where everything is geared to little people. …”

Leonard said currently, cost estimates concerning the addition of gyms have not been explored as a sole option.

“The mandate is for 100 minutes of physical activity. The mandate does not say build a gym,” she said.

Walker said a friend in neighboring Mecklenburg County recently faced the same issue, and three gyms were built at local elementary schools.

He said the ballpark figures ranged from $150,000-$175,000 per gym.

“Unless things have changed significantly, that amount of money would be sufficient,” said Walker.