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Thursday, Jul 31, 2014

Pinellas nixes plan to alter physical education requirements

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LARGO — Increased control over student testing, oversight of charter schools and school funding top the Greater Florida Consortium of School Boards’ list of legislative priorities for next year, but Pinellas County School Board members today made sure the lobbying group won’t be pushing for a measure they fear could make physical education teachers obsolete.

The proposal that was being considered by the consortium, made up of a handful of Florida school districts, would have allowed any physical activity in any class count toward the requirement that elementary school students get 150 minutes of physical activity per week. Right now, students must get that in a formal physical education class, which any teacher can supervise.

The measure may have implied that anyone can teach P.E., said Kim Black, president of the Pinellas Classroom Teachers’ Association.

“[That’s] “simply not true,” she said.

School Board members voted unanimously to strike the item from the list of consortium priorities. The organization will not lobby for the change because, under its rules, it will not advocate a position not endorsed by all of its members.

Board members said they worried the provision could have jeopardized P.E. teachers’ jobs, the amount of exercise students receive and added to classroom teachers’ already busy days.

“When I first started teaching elementary school, we had P.E. or recess every day,” said School Board member Terry Krassner, a former elementary school principal. “Elementary teachers have so much on their plate already, and they so desperately need that planning time, and I think we need to do everything in our power to keep it.”

Some school districts represented by the consortium don’t have full-time P.E. teachers and wanted to ensure they had the ability to have other teachers lead the classes or direct their students in activities that would count for the required 150 minutes of physical education, said School Board Chairwoman Carol Cook, who is Pinellas County’s representative to the consortium.

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