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The Saratoga Falcon

The Saratoga Falcon

The Saratoga Falcon

PE policy remains on hold


Last year, the school district proposed BP 6146.1, a new policy that required all Saratoga High freshmen to take P.E. But it caused much controversy among many students, parents, coaches, and others, mainly from athletics and band, that it was not successfully passed.

After many people voiced their concerns at several board meetings and through petitions, school officials revoked the policy at Saratoga.

As for now, the P.E. policy here remains that students must acquire at least four semesters’ worth of P.E. credit before graduation, whether through the school’s P.E. program, doing sports, participating in marching band, or by other means. 

According to principal Paul Robinson, the administration will evaluate the results of the policy at Los Gatos, and later, they will make a recommendation to the school board.

“We have a number of staff that support [the policy for here], and a few who don’t,” Robinson said. “[However,] the decision lies ultimately with our school board.”   

By contrast, the Los Gatos High School administration decided to implement the P.E. policy this year. Currently, all Los Gatos students must go through their school’s P.E. program in their freshman year, regardless of whether they do a sport or other activities.

Los Gatos eliminated the required Health/Drivers’ Education class for freshmen and incorporated its key elements into the P.E. curriculum instead.

The policy met strong resistance at Saratoga, led by girls’ varsity basketball coach and teacher Mike Davey for athletics and music director Michael Boitz for band. They argued that the mandatory P.E. policy would take time away from the classroom setting and add time to the practices after school, negatively affecting both the academic and athletic performances of students.

Boitz did not want student athletes to spend time in class for physical activity when they were already training hard after school.

“If I’m on the football team and I’m working out two to three hours after school, it’s going to be hard and it doesn’t make sense to put one and a half hours for P.E.,” Boitz said. “It’s the same in marching band. Marching a show takes a physical toll, so [needing] to work out before band is absurd.”

Davey’s main argument was that the policy passed under the teachers’ disagreement and the policy came at a bad time for the school.

“Most of our staff disagreed with the findings. I also speculate that the board has viewed surrounding districts that have already adopted this policy and decided to make changes accordingly,” Davey said when he addressed the school board on Oct. 2. “In fact, with the arrival of new Common Core standards, it seems that P.E. content standards may be changed altogether and so now would be a particularly bad time to make a change.”

In addition, coaches worried that the school’s P.E. class would discourage students from participating in sports. Although two-thirds of freshmen currently do sports as an alternative to the P.E. class, only around one-third of all SHS students do sports.

Another primary concern for both teachers was that the teachers were not notified of the PE policy until a meeting in Sept. 26 of 2012.

“There was a complete lack of transparency in the fashion by the superintendent and the school board conducted in this policy transition,” read the teachers’ uniform complaint procedures form. “The district [had] not communicated with the teachers why they have come to the conclusion that all 9th graders must take PE.”

Others say the policy was specifically created for Los Gatos because students there have an average of about six classes while students at Saratoga take an average of around seven periods. The policy would then add a period for them, getting them to stay on campus so they do not waste their time doing other things.

For his part, P.E. teacher Rick Ellis thinks that all Saratoga freshmen should also be required to take P.E. the entire year.

“Our P.E. program is fitness-based; it works especially in a school with a high stress, academically based student life.” Ellis said. “[Mandatory P.E.] would help alleviate so much of that stress. It’s beneficial for ninth graders because they gain skills they could carry on [later in life], and they would be motivated and even take [the P.E. class] later in high school.”

Ellis believes the mandatory P.E. policy would help practices become more efficient. He thinks that it is absurd that PE credit is given out by coaches who are not legally credentialed for athletics.

“[P.E. teachers should] collaborate with coaches to make a class during school day to fulfill the requirement,” Ellis said. “Athletes can do strength and cardio training during that class, and they can focus on skills after school. It’s a more efficient use of time that way.”

Ellis now teaches the marching band PE class with band director Jonathan Pwu, and he reports that from informal polling, fitness in band P.E. has been beneficial.

“The freshmen’s performances in competitions aren’t being affected by it, and some even said it helps with their marching,” Ellis said.

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