Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Physical Education Fizzling Out

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Physical Education Fizzling Out

Article excerpt

When it comes to educating children, David Theus offers no hint

of loyalty to what he used to do.

If faced with choosing between a physical education teacher and

lowering the student-teacher ratio, hiring a computer teacher or

building a computer lab, the principal at Morse Avenue

Elementary School would get rid of the gym teacher in a minute.

"We choose what we feel is important, and we feel art, music

and PE [physical education] may not be as important as a reading

teacher," said Theus, who was a PE teacher for nine years and

has managed to keep physical education in the curriculum on a

part-time basis in spite of a tight budget.

"What's important to me is getting them to read and not whether

they can jump rope."

Other elementary school principals apparently feel the same

way.

In an era when America's kids watch much more television and

are fatter than ever before, 16 Duval County elementary schools,

with enrollments ranging from 318 to 1,120 students, have

dropped physical education from their curriculum in recent

years.

With 550 students, John Stockton Elementary School in Ortega is

one of the schools that no longer employs a physical education

teacher.

"It's truly gut-wrenching, and there's no other word for it

because you're dealing with children's lives," said Stockton

principal Sara Hollander. "With some children, if the school

doesn't provide the arts and music and PE they don't get it."

The reason they're being dropped, according to Duval County

School Board member Susan Wilkinson, is because money is being

spent on resource teachers who supplement the teachers already

in the classrooms, and because the amount of money allocated to

teach a child has not increased since 1991 even though there are

more children in the school system.

"The school system is between a rock and a hard place, not

because of the growth so much but because the income from the

state hasn't increased in five years," Wilkinson said.

But Wilkinson would like to see Superintendent Larry Zenke

devise a plan so that art, music and physical education are put

back into every elementary school.

"A lot of the people in the community value this as part of

education," she said.

The state doesn't require physical education be taught in

elementary or middle schools, said Jim Crosier, spokesman for

the Department of Education. High schools only require a

1/2-credit -- one semester -- of PE, although Crosier said he has

heard of some schools requiring as much as two credits of PE to

graduate. There are no plans to increase the high school

requirement, he said.

"That's strictly a local decision," Crosier said.

Theus said the decision to drop or cut back on courses like PE

is driven by need and finances. …

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