Freshman P.E. exemptions to become more inclusive

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Freshman P.E. exemptions to become more inclusive

Students march in formation as part of Oak Park High School's marching band. Incoming freshmen joining marching band or cheer will be exempt from an otherwise mandatory physical education class (Meghana Mudunuri/Talon).

Students march in formation as part of Oak Park High School's marching band. Incoming freshmen joining marching band or cheer will be exempt from an otherwise mandatory physical education class (Meghana Mudunuri/Talon).

Students march in formation as part of Oak Park High School's marching band. Incoming freshmen joining marching band or cheer will be exempt from an otherwise mandatory physical education class (Meghana Mudunuri/Talon).

Students march in formation as part of Oak Park High School's marching band. Incoming freshmen joining marching band or cheer will be exempt from an otherwise mandatory physical education class (Meghana Mudunuri/Talon).

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The school board approved a change February in the physical education graduation requirements for freshmen involved in marching band and cheer, beginning with the class of 2021.

The change exempts freshmen in marching band and cheer from taking the P.E. class their freshman year. The board had applied this exemption to freshmen in sports during the 2016-2017 school year.

Assistant Principal Bryan Martin said that credits will be given to marching band students and cheerleaders to remain consistent with last year’s rule change, and to allow for more flexibility in student schedules.

Before this initial exemption for freshmen in sports, all freshmen were required to take the P.E. class for two semesters to earn 10 out of the 20 P.E. credits necessary to graduate.

“Last year, we made a similar proposal that defined interscholastic programs as sports teams,” Martin wrote in an email. “We have since learned that this can include marching band [and cheer].”

Junior Jessica Conway, drum major of the marching band, said she believes this change will be beneficial.

These students are already receiving P.E. credit in grades 10 through 12; we have just created an exemption for ninth graders.”

— Bryan Martin

“An extra schedule space would have been much more valuable than being required to take a P.E. class in addition to our after-school activity,” Conway said.

Aside from the freshmen, all other grade levels in previous years received the P.E. credits for marching band and cheer.

“These students are already receiving P.E. credit in grades 10 through 12; we have just created an exemption for ninth graders,” Martin wrote in an email.

Past policy indicated that neither marching band nor cheer required enough physical activity and competition to enable freshmen to be exempt from taking the P.E. class.

“It was felt that these extracurricular activities [could] be considered interscholastic athletic programs that involve a significant amount of physical exertion,” Martin wrote.

To ensure that the students in marching band and cheer were getting the physical exercise that P.E. class would have provided, the students will still need to pass the California Physical Fitness Exam. The California Physical Fitness Exam consists of six trials students need to pass: running the mile, doing sit-ups, push-ups, sit-and-reach, the BMI test and the trunk extension test.

“Students will need to take and pass five of six portions of the California Physical Fitness Exam in order to earn credit for marching band or cheer during their 10th grade year,” Martin wrote.

Martin said he believes that these changes will help incoming students.

“Personally, I believe that it opens a lot of opportunities for students in the ninth grade that may have not been available previously,” Martin wrote.

Freshman cheerleader Brianna Szabo said she supports the change in P.E. requirements.

Students who would’ve otherwise been interested in marching band looked elsewhere, and missed out because they wanted to get out of the P.E. class.”

— Jessica Conway

“If the freshmen are exempt next year, I’d be happy for them,” Szabo said. “Because it allows them to take an actual class in place of a pretty pointless one.”

Conway agreed, saying she considers this change to be useful toward the incoming freshmen that decide to do marching band.

“Last year, other activities were able to get freshmen out of P.E. and that hurt our freshman enrollment. Students who would’ve otherwise been interested in marching band looked elsewhere, and missed out because they wanted to get out of the P.E. class,” Conway said. “This year, we were very excited to be able to tell the current eighth graders that marching band will exempt them from freshman P.E. like the other sports.”

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