Students at Whiteland Community High School have been spending less time in physical education class over the past five years.
Nearly half the freshmen starting at Whiteland last school year were members of the football team, wrestled, were in marching band or played other sports. And once those students proved to their P.E. teachers how the number of laps they ran or the amount of weight they lifted during their conditioning was equal to what students do in a traditional class, they received waivers from one semester of physical education classes, school officials said.
Franklin Community High School offers a similar waiver for the entire freshman physical education course to students who participate in at least two sports seasons throughout the year, Superintendent David Clendening said.
At Franklin, between 30 and 38 of the school’s freshmen, or nearly 10 percent, receive physical education waivers each year. Last year at Whiteland, 220 students, including about 44 percent of the freshmen, received waivers, according to school officials.
Center Grove and Greenwood schools still require all students to take physical education classes because they want to ensure all students learn important lessons about fitness and nutrition.
“Many discussions have taken place in staff settings, and the staff of the high school feels there is value in those two semesters of (physical education) because of what they do in terms of lifelong physical education and nutrition education and so on,” Greenwood director of guidance Bill Ronk said.
In 2009, the State Board of Education started giving school districts flexibility in how students met physical education standards. Franklin and Whiteland both started granting the waivers to students so they would have more opportunities to take courses they’re interested in.
Those could include more intensive physical education courses, such as strength and conditioning. Students also can take electives in art or music or more rigorous and advanced academic courses, Clendening and Clark-Pleasant assistant superintendent John Schilawski said.
Most area high schools offer mandatory health courses students take in addition to physical education, which is where they learn connections between nutrition and health. And part of the reason Whiteland still requires students to take one semester of physical education is that school officials want to be sure all students, including athletes, know more about the science of fitness, such as how different kinds of movement affect the human body, Schilawski said.
“We still believe there is value in some of those other components of physical education,” he said.
School officials are considering including the high school’s swimming requirements as part of the waiver student-athletes can receive.
Swimming is an essential skill, and students need to be able to handle themselves around water and know that if they find themselves accidentally knocked into a pool or lake that they can get themselves out, Schilawski said. But not all students have been taught proper swimming skills, which is why the high school includes the swimming unit as part of physical education class.
Right now a student who doesn’t pass the swimming portion of the class but completes all of the other lessons and passes the class still has to receive additional swimming instruction and pass another swimming test and wouldn’t qualify for a P.E. waiver, Schilawski said.