Ending Pe Does Not End Opportunities

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The budget crisis faced by the Payson Unified School District has led to the drastic decision to eliminate teaching positions and the entire elementary physical education program.

While finances may make these cuts unavoidable, the health of the community's children deserves a second look.

Tracey Herbert, P.E. teacher at Julia Randall Elementary, believes the decision is a mistake based on the disturbing trend toward obesity in children.

There are statistics that lend support to Herbert's concerns.

In the April edition of Woman's Day, a report on children's health stated approximately 15 percent of kids between the ages of 6 and 19 are now considered overweight, an increase of 11 percent since 1970 according to the Centers for Disease Control.

And the problem is far-reaching. Only 8 percent of elementary schools and 6 percent of middle and high schools offer physical education on a daily basis for all grades for the entire school year, according to the article.

"Given the growing crisis of overweight and obesity that our nation faces, there is no better place to effectively address this challenge than in our schools. It's not about appearances. It's about health ... Already in children we are seeing disturbing rises in Type 2 diabetes, an obesity-related condition that previously was an almost exclusively adult disease," said former Surgeon General David Satcher in the article.

The district -- for now -- cannot afford a formal P.E. program in its elementary schools, but nontraditional solutions might be worth exploring.

The Woman's Day article said in December 2000, federal legislation authorized $400 million over five years to help improve physical education programs across the country. It did not elaborate on the specifics of the funding, but with a call to any one of our congressmen or senators, those details could be ferreted out.

Or perhaps student athletes from the high school could visit the elementary campuses during recess times and work with the children. They could teach the youngsters their warm-up routines and maybe even put together informal competitions. At the same time, the students would be building bonds and school pride.

While teachers are already strapped for time, there might be those who would be willing to occasionally trade off their designated preparation times to give the students some fundamental physical education.

Another alternative might be to arrange regular field trips to the community athletic clubs and town playing fields and courts for lessons in lifetime physical recreation activities.

Sports enthusiasts, such as mountain bikers, tennis players, etc., could volunteer their time to work with the elementary students as well.

Whether we have children or not, the schools play a big part in the lives of this community. As responsible, contributing members of society we have an obligation to step up and help our school district find a solution to a problem that could have long-term consequences for everyone.

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