The district’s new independent study program for physical education has proven popular with Rio students, who make almost half the the 70 district-wide participants.
Faced with impacted schedules mostly because of band and Civitas classes, 33 students here have opted to take independent study P.E. Nearly all of them are sophomores, as the program is designed to allow students to take their second year of P.E. outside of the school day.
“I believe there was need for students to have their high school P.E. credit, because they are taking Civitas, band etc.” said Vice Principal Rob Kerr. Without the class, he said, students would have to take P.E. over the summer.
Mira Loma, an International Baccalaureate high school, also has heavy enrollment in the class.
However, some P.E. teachers say the program does not measure up and will lead to cuts in staffing.
“It was originally proposed that if you played a varsity sport then you were exempt from P.E.,” said P.E. teacher Brian Davis, who is frustrated by the idea of so many students taking the class independently. “Now, it’s come to where you don’t have to play a varsity sport. It is ‘if you have an impacted schedule,’ and the physical education people across the district are furious.
“If more people take [Independent Study P.E.] then we’re going to lose teaching jobs because there won’t be anybody to take sophomore P.E.”
Even if students perform physically rigorous tasks, independent study does not teach the same skills as a regular class, he said.
“In my opinion, people are using the Independent Study P.E. because they’re saying, my child plays club soccer so why do they need to come to P.E. class,” Davis said. “They are discrediting the physical education curriculum and saying it doesn’t really mean anything.”
Davis also believes that by taking the class independently, students are not learning how to work in a group setting.
“Physical education is unique to other classes because you’re in large groups of people and it’s not about competition anymore, or just exercise, there’s a much more life-long fitness learning aspect, he said. “We have kids that can’t swim and they live by the river, if they take P.E. by themselves, they may never learn those skills.”
Counselor Heather Jensen said that Independent Study isn’t there for students to get out of P.E. Participants must still complete 60 hours to put in of physical fitness along with an activity supervisor that cannot be a parent. Students must also complete assignments on the Schoology online program.
Students who take Independent Study P.E. are not allowed to be a teacher’s assistant or have an open period.
“It wasn’t about lightening your load just to have a lighter load, it was about lightening your load from P.E. in order to be able to take a true academic class,” Jensen said.
Since 33 sophomores take I.S.P.E., the P.E. teachers’ fear is that it could take out one whole class. So, while Davis may be teaching three P.E. classes this year, next year he could only be teaching two, and eventually he won’t be teaching sophomore P.E..
“In my heart, I believe it is against the law not to require two years of physical education in high schools, in California,” he said.
The San Juan District is one of two districts in the state to offer Independent Study P.E. and the other district is only a one-high-school district.
As there are only two districts who offer the course, Davis looked into why it wasn’t an issue with students in other districts.
“I think we should be on a four-by-four block which would give us eight periods. In a semester you go periods 1, 3, 5, 7 and then 2, 4, 6, 8, so you have four classes a day and eight a semester. That’s my solution to not having schedules impacted to want to take Independent Study P.E.”