U-46 Hopes Fitness Centers Make Gym Popular Half of District's Students Opt out of Physical Education

By Tabor, Terri | Daily Herald (Arlington Heights, IL), December 18, 2000 | Go to article overview

U-46 Hopes Fitness Centers Make Gym Popular Half of District's Students Opt out of Physical Education


Tabor, Terri, Daily Herald (Arlington Heights, IL)


Byline: Terri Tabor Daily Herald Staff Writer

With half of their high school students dodging gym class, Elgin Area School District U-46 physical education instructors needed to find a way to excite students about working out.

This year they believe they found the answer with a revamped physical-education program.

U-46 high schools have done away with physical education in dungeon-like weight rooms and the basketball and volleyball games where only the athletes excelled.

The district gave Elgin, Larkin and Streamwood high schools $100,000 each to buy state-of-the-art aerobic and weight machines and set up fitness centers. The newer Bartlett High School was excluded because it opened with a fitness center.

Now students who take physical education get the same workout provided by local gyms that charge membership fees. And they learn the skills behind a variety of different sports.

"It's no longer just roll out the ball and play - it's concept- based physical education," said Lori Lopez, chairman of Larkin High School's physical education department.

"I think we are at the top in terms of what our fitness center offers for kids," she added.

But in U-46, a quality physical education isn't just about fancy workout machines and weights. Being physically fit also means understanding lifetime health and fitness skills, the skills behind different sports and how to reach individual and team goals.

All of these concepts are addressed in a new K-12 physical education curriculum developed by P.E. instructors. The curriculum, introduced this year, builds on students' fitness goals from the time they enter school as kindergartners until their senior year.

"We're talking about teaching kids concepts that will stay with them," said Jennifer Haley, chairman of Bartlett High School's physical education department.

But U-46 P.E. instructors, like many around the country, are fighting an uphill battle.

Only 21 percent of adolescents are taking one or more gym classes a week, according to a recent University of North Carolina study. And the latest statistics from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention show that nearly half of American youths 12 to 21 years old are not active on a regular basis.

With laws on the books allowing students to bypass gym class, experts say the trend will continue.

While on paper, Illinois law is among the toughest as far as requiring students to take P.E. classes, in reality many students are not required to take the class daily, thanks to waivers.

Almost 300 of the state's nearly 900 school districts allow students to waive out of P.E. for a number of reasons, but mainly so they can fit other academic courses in their schedules. …

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