As the District 200 school board considers facility improvements to address needs for today and tomorrow, it’s reasonable that the board review and update the school’s approaches to education and physical education (PE), before investing scores or hundreds of millions of taxpayer dollars. Yet the fact is that D200 has conducted no such PE review. And the actual “need” for PE space is declining.

In her closing comments at the recent D200 Town Hall meeting, Superintendent Pruitt-Adams incorrectly stated that the state of Illinois requires five days of high school PE each week. In August 2017, the state reduced the PE requirement from five to three days and also exempted all student athletes from PE while in season. Previously, only juniors and seniors on varsity teams were eligible to opt out of PE for a study hall. Fifteen months later, D200 has implemented neither update. During the 2017-2018 academic year, 1,429 students participated in at least one sport, and 466 students participated in multiple sports, according to D200. The total number of students participating in sports teams should have resulted in an equal number of PE exemptions.

The state still issues PE waivers, despite lessening its mandatory requirements last year. Fenwick is one example. Its students are only required to take two semesters of PE during their four years, and PE classes meet only three days a week. Fenwick’s one-year PE requirement allows students more time for electives and AP classes too.

In addition to updating its PE requirement, it’s time D200’s classes undergo a 21st-century makeover. D200 students have the option of taking education classes online. Why not a virtual PE class? One has been offered at Charlottesville High School in Virginia since 2014. Students enrolled in the course wear a wristband that logs daily movement and complete an online course on exercise, healthy eating and general fitness principles.

There’s another progressive program, also offered at a Charlottesville school, which provides swim lessons for elementary students. It’s a common-sense program as, according to the Park District of Oak Park, children who don’t learn to swim by the third grade or so are less likely to ever learn how to swim. Waiting to teach swimming to students in the ninth grade is not a best practice in the 21st century.

In her comments, Pruitt-Adams also implied that Imagine’s large pool is a racial equity need. Such a comment and any effort to frame a large swimming pool, that’s double the size of a standard-size high school competition pool, as a racial equity need are disingenuous. Underscoring that point, an organizer of a recent racial equity rally held up a sign that said, “Ditch the Big Pool! It’s Drowning Racial Equity.”

Email the board, BoE@oprfhs.org, and urge rational updates to the school’s PE requirements and rational action regarding its $218 million master facility plan that earmarks 60 percent of its expenditures to PE.

Monica Sheehan

OPRF Pragmatic Solutions

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