Local News

Tuesday, Sep 27 2011 11:00 PM

BCSD board denies request to seek state PE waiver

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    By Casey Christie / The Californian

    Walter Stiern Middle School students stretch out at the start of their physical education class, Tuesday afternoon before working on softball drills.

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    By Casey Christie / The Californian

    Stiern Middle School PE teacher, Scott Floyd demonstrates some softball skills, in class Tuesday.

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    By Casey Christie / The Californian

    Stiern Middle School PE teacher Scott Floyd, demonstrates some softball skills to his class Tuesday. Noelia Gonzalez, left, a 7th grader at Stiern practices during class.

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    By Casey Christie / The Californian

    Stiern Middle School students Richard Rivera, left, Luis Alvarez, David Granero, Jesse Perez, and Kevin Rosales, right, work on softball drills during PE class Tuesday afternoon.

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BY jorge barrientos Californian staff writer jbarrientos@bakersfield.com

Bakersfield City School District trustees, administrators, teachers and community members all agreed Tuesday night -- PE only helps students' health and academic success.

How much time some of them should spend doing physical education, as opposed to taking an extra math or English classes, was another story.

The school board denied the district's request to ask the state education department for permission to continue offering more than 1,000 struggling seventh- and eighth-graders extra support in those subjects, and only the minimum PE required.

Only trustee Pam Baugher, a retired BCSD teacher, agreed to send the state department a waiver because stakeholders -- parents and the teachers union -- had signed off, she said. Other trustees stated the district should offer more PE, and asked district officials for more information on how effective those extra classes have been.

"Let's talk about what's best for our children," trustee Andrae Gonzales said.

Without that waiver, the district is at risk of being found "out of compliance" by the California Department of Education for not offering physical education every school day to those students.

Under California education code, students in grades one through six must get a minimum of 200 minutes of physical education every 10 school days, or every other day; grades seven through 12 must get a minimum of 400 minutes, or every day; and elementary school districts with grades one through eight, like BCSD, must have a minimum of 200 minutes.

While BCSD has been told recently it was in compliance, it has also been told it must offer 400 minutes of PE to those junior high students.

"There is ambiguity," Nancy Olcott, director of curriculum and standards, told the board. "We're trying to be proactive. And we want to work on a solution."

The waivers are designed to give schools flexibility without undermining the basic intent of the law. Without a waiver, Olcott said, the district "will be found to be out of compliance." It's not guaranteed the State Board of Education would grant BCSD that waiver.

If BCSD is found not in compliance, it would have 45 to 60 days to hire more PE teachers, reduce the number of teachers in the extra classes, and fix schedules -- all possibly in the middle of the school year.

Furthermore, BCSD would still have to offer those students extra classes due to federal mandates -- those students are in Program Improvement schools failing to make benchmarks.

District officials were hoping to submit the waiver -- which if approved by the state board would be in effect only for next school year -- and work with stakeholders to address PE concerns. In fact, Bakersfield Elementary Teachers Association signed off on the waiver under the agreement that conversations regarding PE minutes continue.

PE teachers speaking out on the subject Tuesday night said PE time issues have been ongoing for years and have yet to be properly addressed.

"We haven't been in compliance for 10 years," said Leo Goehring, a BCSD PE teacher of 30 years. "I don't think we need a waiver to get them (the students) the help they need."

His colleague, Scott Floyd, said the district should follow its slogan, "Where the child comes first." Diabetes and obesity rates in children are at all-time highs, and physical education combats that. Others who spoke said more PE time helps students focus on class, and cuts down on discipline problems.

District officials will soon be planning on how to move forward without the waiver.

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