Phys Ed Exemptions for Athletes Nixed by Madison BOE
Some school board members who initially favored letting athletes take study hall instead of gym changed their minds.
Some Madison Board of Education members who initially favored the idea of letting high school athletes take study hall instead of physical education so the students could have more time to rest and do schoolwork changed their minds after exploring the issue further.
Board curriculum committee members Shade Grahling and Linda Gilbert said they went into the process with a preference for allowing exemptions, but changed their minds after researching the subject, hearing from administrators and surveying other districts, including some who tried exemptions and reverted back.
Administrators gave a presentation on their findings Tuesday night at the Board of Education meeting at Madison High School.
Athletic Director Sean Dowling said, with sports teams, the focus is on winning championships instead of lifelong fitness. He said the department recently overhauled its curriculum, and the classes have educational components that athletics does not necessarily meet.
For board member James Novotny, it boiled down to that point, even as Dowling listed other obstacles, such as it being a "bookkeeping nightmare" that adds responsibilities to coaches, and could open a Pandora's box with students in other extra-curricular activities, such as marching band and theater, seeking exemptions.
"The physical education standards are solid," Novotny said. "I'm sorry, it can't be done. It's fundamental."
Madison High School Principal Greg Robertson said he ultimately found allowing physical education exemptions was not right for the school, though there could be better communication about what physical education is supposed to be for students.
"We entered into the process with a very open mind," Robertson said. "We, and I, decided very clearly that this is not in the best interest of our students."
He also said the school cannot have "policies and procedures for every single pocket of students." Robertson and Dowling said academics comes first, and students should always talk to coaches and the school when they have issues with balancing schoolwork and sports.
Parent and two-time Olympian JoJo Starbuck Gertler, who raised the issue this year, thanked administrators for exploring the issue, but said she did not understand why it should be taken completely off the table. Allowing students to take a break from physical education could give them more time for academics, she said.
"Some of these kids really need it," she said.