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PE requirement explained

Members of the Charlotte County School Board continue to work through details of a requirement that will soon require an average of 100 minutes of physical education each week at the K-5 grade levels, in light of the absence of gym space at two local elementary schools.

Nancy Leonard

Currently, Bacon District Elementary and Phenix Elementary do not have indoor gym space in the event of inclement weather.

According to Superintendent of Charlotte County Schools Dr. Nancy Leonard, “the spirit of the requirement is encouraging physical movement and exercise. So much emphasis has been placed on testing in the last few years, this is an acknowledgment that children need to have opportunities for physical activity during the day to be healthy.”

Leonard said as a school superintendent, she agrees with the requirement. The requirement said students in grades K-5 are required to receive at least 20 minutes of physical activity per day or 100 minutes per week during the regular school year.

This requirement will become effective during the 2018- 19 school year, which raised concerns regarding the absence of gyms at Bacon District and Phenix Elementary.

Leonard said if a viable solution is not implemented before the start of the new school year, students at Bacon District and Phenix Elementary would use the building space to have physical activity, including space found in mobile units or classrooms. “The cafeteria is a large space with a high ceiling where children could get some sustained physical activity and play some physical games such as basketball or volleyball,” Leonard said.

She said a request came from the board of supervisors for the school board to investigate the cost of two standalone gyms, and while the request was investigated, “it is very difficult to justify placing two stand-alone gyms at Bacon and Phenix and ignoring the issue of our children at Phenix Elementary having classroom spaces in non-handicap accessible, second hand trailers behind the school,” said Leonard.

She said the entire school board has agreed the situation must be improved. In light of this, she said proposed $3 million in renovations for Bacon and Phenix Elementary could include a gym at each school and eight classrooms, replacing all mobile units.

“During discussion during the last several years, this (school) board, as well as previous boards have factored in the need for all schools to have gyms whether it be through consolidated or renovated options for school facilities,” said Leonard. “All previous boards and our current board have emphasized the need for equal facilities for our schools and this includes giving all children in the county access to gyms.”

According to Leonard, the current average time for a physical education (PE) period at the elementary schools in the county is 40 minutes each day.

She said individual teachers also have the ability to take students outside as a reward or for learning activities outside of the regular designated PE times.

“On inclement weather days, the students have activities for PE inside of the building,” said Leonard. “Students at Phenix have some version of PE in a mobile unit, Bacon District has some version of PE in a classroom designated as a PE classroom, and Eureka students have PE in a gymnasium. The level of activity is reduced at Bacon and Phenix due to not having gyms.”

Eureka Elementary is currently the only elementary school is the county with indoor gym facilities.

“Children need to play and have an opportunity to be physically active during the day,” said Leonard. “Making time in the day for children to be children, allowing them to run and play is a good thing. This is a healthy and child friendly requirement.”