Two programs in the physical welfare department in Niles Township High School District 219 came out smelling like a rose – well, maybe a stinky rose – in reports to the school board May 14.
Varsity athletes get strength, conditioning
Teachers and coaches from and high schools all had good things to say about the varsity physical education program, in which varsity athletes are assigned a gym class in which they lift weights and do other strength and conditioning exercises.
Doing such conditioning during the school day frees up practice time for sport-specific practice, said Paul Swanson, director of the physical welfare department, and doing it all year means students get workouts tailored to their pre- and post-season goals as well as extra sessions when their sport is in season.
About 770 student-athletes took varsity PE this year, and about 800 are expected to do so next year. Juniors and seniors who are not varsity athletes can take a similar strength and conditioning class, Swanson said.
The only negative comments on varsity PE were about personal hygiene, and the need for the athletes to wash their workout clothes more frequently, according to material presented to the board.
School board member Carlton Evans lauded the program as a good stepping stone for students who intend to participate in college sports, where athletes are expected to maintain a more rigorous conditioning schedule.
Embedding health into PE also praised
Swanson said teachers were also pleased with the result of embedding health education into the sophomore physical education curriculum. Until this year, sophomores took a semester of health along with a full year of PE, while most other area schools substitute a semester of health for one semester of PE.
Instead of doing that, sophomores have regular physical education some days, classroom sessions on health other days, and health lessons taught during physical education classes as well. Teachers, for example, might show a health video while students are riding stationary bikes, or a class on cardiovascular fitness while students are exercising using heart rate monitors.
“They’re looking at the classroom differently,” Swanson said.
District 219 Superintendent Nanciann Gatta pointed out that a year ago, when District 219 was considering making the change, health and PE teachers protested, and now the program has rave reviews and other school districts are visiting to see how it works.
“It’s almost exactly opposite of the fears that were expressed,” she said, noting that administrators based their recommendations on the best research they could find. “We don’t pull these ideas out of nowhere because we think it’s going to save money.”