Limited Space is Challenging Teachers
Aiken County physical education teachers are resorting to jumping jacks in the hallways and calisthenics in the classroom to meet the requirements of a state law on class sizes.
Jim Stanton teaches three days a week at Mossy Creek Elementary and two days at Belvedere Elementary to help full-time physical education teachers meet a 600-to-1 pupil-teacher ratio.
The ratio was put in place by the Student Health and Fitness Act, which was implemented in 2006 to give pupils more physical activity and improve nutrition.
The law’s proposed reduction in physical education ratios from 800-to-1 to 500-to-1 over three years was supposed to give pupils more quality physical activity in school.
But, Mr. Stanton said, a lack of forethought about individual school needs sometimes leaves him in a cramped situation. With one gym the size of a volleyball court at Belvedere, his rainy day activities conflict with those of full-time teacher Linda Duckett.
“It’s created quite a challenge for us,” he said.
Mrs. Duckett said that with the limited space, there’s no way to double up classes and still have an effective activity time.
Instead, pupils work out in the hallways, classrooms or any other space available. Mr. Stanton said he has even had pupils from other classes walk through his class in a hallway.
State budget cuts have also prevented the school district from hiring additional instructors or buying equipment.
The class-size ratio was to drop to 500-to-1 for this school year, but it remained at 600-to-1 because of budget cuts, according to Lynn Hammond, the state director of Healthy Schools, part of the state Department of Education.
Aiken County schools also received less money for teachers and equipment for 2008-09, an $8,736 reduction to $252,740.
“If you break that down, they did give us some money because we had to purchase some supplies, but there’s a number of things we’re still lacking in equipment,” Mrs. Duckett said. “Then the rest was used to hire teachers. If you think about it, that’s barely five or six teachers.”
Physical education teachers say pupils still love any activity time they can get. It’s just hard juggling the time for effective lessons and finding space for smaller classes.
To meet state weekly requirements of 60 minutes of physical education and 90 additional minutes of physical activity, teachers incorporate movement into math and reading lessons.
“We still count extra activity time, which can be done in subject areas, like jumping jacks with spelling words,” said Michele Conner, Aiken County’s elementary education director. “It’s just extra time on the teacher to keep a record of it,” she said.
Physical education teachers incorporated new technology, such as GPS outdoor tracking, to keep activities fun. Mr. Stanton and other teachers are also going back to old-school activities such as four square to make up for a lack of additional equipment funds this year.
Next year, the state Education Department hopes to complete the third year of implementation and give school districts additional funds.
“We do fulfill the regulations to the best of our ability and do the annual reports,” Mrs. Conner said. “But P.E. teachers struggle to get in instructional activity because there’s a limited number of teachers and time in the day.”
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STUDENT HEALTH AND FITNESS ACT
– Elementary pupil to physical education teacher ratio dropped from 800-to-1 to 600-to-1.
– Because of state budget cuts this year, the ratio will not drop to 500-to-1 as intended.
– Aiken County schools received $252,740 for the school year to employ more physical education teachers to meet the state classroom ratio.
– In 2007-08, Aiken County schools received $261,476. According to 2007 data from Aiken County schools, the district would need $300,000 to $450,000 from the state each year to meet the requirements of the law.
– Pupils in elementary school are required to have 90 minutes of physical activity in addition to 60 minutes of physical education each week.\
OTHER INITIATIVES IN THE LAW:
– Pupils will have a minimum of 20 minutes to eat lunch once they have received their food.
– Elementary schools will offer a minimum of two lunch entrees, three milk choices and four fruit and vegetable options.
– Beverages sold, except milk or water, will not be larger than 12 ounces.
– Vending machines will not be located in school cafeterias, serving areas or food-consumption areas.
Source: Aiken County School District, The Augusta Chronicle archives, South Carolina Department of Education
Originally published by Julia Sellers Staff Writer.
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