At Monday night’s meeting Morris School District Board of Education member Ann Rhines said the topic was broached in her last curriculum meeting.
“We were discussing the state’s option two plan,” Rhines said. “Option two would mean the athletes wouldn’t have to go to gym. They would instead have a study hall. This is in its infancy.”
The basic framework for exemption as enacted by other New Jersey schools has certain criteria:
- Must be a Junior or Senior (who has not failed health or received a final grade of F in physical education.
- Must be a member of an athletic team or outside organization that provides a minimum of 150 minutes of physical activity each week for all marking periods excluding health.
- Personnel from a gym, licensed trainer and/or coach’s information and signature will be required for exemption.
Rhines said the discussion could be renewed at the next curriculum committee meeting, but no decisions are expected soon as the issue is complex.
“There are benefits to allowing athletes to take study hall. My granddaughter is a dancer who goes to school in Texas. She dances six days a week,” Rhine said. “The study hall was great for her.”
But Rhine also acknowledged there are logistics like staffing the study halls that needed to be considered.
Nearby, the West Morris Regional School District struck down a proposal that would further exempt athletes this summer. But that district already has a gym class exemption policy. Currently their policy exempts athletes for one marking period (during the season of their sport) to two or three, depending on the number of sports played, and the overlap on the school calendar for marking period length.
Rhine said the issue was a tricky one because with childhood obesity on everyone’s mind, removing an outlet for exercise should not be done lightly. But neither should the options be limited to a narrow band of sports if the district decides to enact a policy similar to West Morris.
“If we open it up to sports like football and soccer would we open it up to dancers and skaters and students who ride horses? I think we should,” Rhine said.
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