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Falls a step closer to waivers

Student-athletes could skip last credit of physical education requirement

Feb. 26, 2013

Menomonee Falls - Menomonee Falls High School student athletes in their junior or senior years may soon have the option to waive their final semester of required physical education in order to complete an additional core class.

The School Board on Monday discussed a proposal from the Curriculum and Learning and Policy committees that would allow the district to offer the physical education waiver to qualified students.

Curriculum and Learning Director Gary Kiltz explained that the district is able to provide such an option as a result of Wisconsin Act 105. Based on that law, the district's proposed policy specifies that students may complete an additional one credit in English, social studies, math, science or health in lieu of one credit of physical education, when they participate for at least 95 percent of the season in a district-sponsored or Wisconsin Interscholastic Athletic Association-sanctioned junior varsity or varsity athletic team listed in the Menomonee Falls High School student handbook.

High school students currently are required to complete a total of three semesters of physical education. Physical Education 9 and 10 would still be required, with the option only to waive the final semester.

"Juniors and seniors in the fall season would be the ones who have the opportunity to take advantage of this waiver process," Kiltz said.

Students would not be allowed to substitute required courses or credits in the specified core subject areas for the physical education course, only courses in addition to minimum graduation requirements.

Based on feedback from other districts instituting physical education waivers, the students most likely to take advantage of the waiver are those who are attracted to advanced math and science classes, particularly Advanced Placement courses, Kiltz said.

In order to participate, students also would be required to submit a verification form signed by a parent and coach at the beginning of an athletic season, with attendance and participation subsequently confirmed by the coach within two weeks of the end of the season.

'Educationally unsound'

Should a student athlete miss more than two weeks of the season due to injury or illness or violate the athletic code in any way, he or she would no longer be eligible for the waiver, Kiltz said.

Chad Stigler, physical education teacher at Riverside Elementary, expressed concerns on behalf of the district's physical education department with regard to the proposal.

Stigler said it is the position of the department that Act 105 is "educationally unsound," and that students should be required to complete their physical education credits in a knowledge-based academic program.

"Passing this waiver would result in limiting students' ability to reach their full potential by narrowing their educational exposure to a single sport, rather than a balanced, varied, comprehensive and rigorous physical educational program," Stigler said.

Board member Faith VanderHorst noted that the proposal is consistent with the district's strategic plan.

Further, the intent is to allow students to take advantage of advanced course offerings and provide them with better post-high school opportunities in their desired areas of study or career paths, Kiltz said.

He stressed that participation in the sport itself does not constitute a course and does not count as any high school graduation credit, it is simply a qualifier for students to participate in the waiver system.

"The waiver here is not waiving PE for the athletic event. The athletic event serves as a qualifier for this waiver," he said. "What we're proposing here is that PE is waived in lieu of a core academic subject course."

Worried about staff cuts

Physical education teacher Ann Reigstad noted that, in examining the participation numbers from other districts, "If these numbers would be in Menomonee Falls, we would lose many sections of Phy. Ed., equaling positions."

In a survey of several districts that currently offer physical education waivers, Greenfield, similar in size to Menomonee Falls, has16 students participating this year, Hamilton has six, Westosha has 34 and Mequon, which will implement the policy beginning next year, has seven students signed up, Kiltz said.

"I'm anticipating if we have 15 to 20 students, that's going to be a lot for our district," Kiltz said.

The policy was presented for discussion only on Monday. The board expects to take action on the proposal at the end of March. Parents have been informed of the policy and anticipated timeline for discussion and approval in a letter from Kiltz.

NEXT STEP

WHAT:School Board to act on physical education waiver

WHEN: 7 p.m. Monday, March 25

WHERE: Village Board Room, W156 N8480 Pilgrim Road

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