Columbia Public Schools considers changes to PE curriculum

Wednesday, November 7, 2012 | 6:28 p.m. CST; updated 7:08 p.m. CST, Wednesday, November 7, 2012

COLUMBIA — It’s the last play of the day.

At Hickman High School, boys from all grades rush to their positions on the field during team sports class.

The quarterback goes for a long, risky pass, and for a minute, it appears the receiver’s leap above his defenders puts him in the perfect position to retrieve the ball.

But the ball slips through his hands.

Incompletion — and back to separate classes the boys go.

Although freshmen in Columbia public high schools might walk alongside upperclassmen in the hallways next year, they might not have a chance to participate in physical education classes with sophomores, juniors and seniors.

Some sophomores such as Gareth Greenwell, currently enrolled in Hickman's men's team sports class, say they wouldn't mind having PE class with freshmen. 

"In PE you don't learn anything age specific, so I don't think it would really matter, just like sophomores to seniors this year," he said.

The grade shifts will happen next fall when Columbia Public Schools will move freshmen to high schools, eliminate junior high schools and repurpose middle schools to include sixth, seventh and eighth graders. 

Freshmen will be required to complete one full credit of PE like all other students, but questions persist on how classes will be divided.

Members of a program evaluation team and intermediate steering committee for Columbia Public Schools have proposed changes to the physical education programs to accommodate the grade redistribution in place next year.

The school board will vote on the propositions, including separate freshman classes and the introduction of a class on outdoor activities, in November. 

The options for freshmen would be team sports class or a lifetime activities class, separate from other grades. With teacher or coach permission along with parent approval, freshmen may enroll in strength training, body sculpting or swimming as well.

J.D. Coffman, a Hickman PE teacher, said student athletes who have had experience with weightlifting and wish to take the class to stay in shape would most likely need permission forms.

Coffman said offering basic ninth-grade classes would give students a taste for each area to better decide which class they should take next.

“We see a lot of repeat customers,” Coffman said, referring to students who fulfill the basic requirements but continue to take PE classes.

These “repeat customers” include senior Nate Gutwein. He has taken men’s team sports class three times in his high school career.

Gutwein would like students to be able to choose the sports they play each class period. Although direct student input isn’t taken into consideration in addressing curriculum changes, Coffman said he used what he overheard in classroom conversation to help propose an outdoor activities class available next year.

Outdoor classes

The committee has also proposed to include an outdoor education class that offers units in archery, water and hunting safety, fishing and hiking.

Christi Hopper, curriculum coordinator for secondary health and PE for Columbia Public Schools, said she is meeting with the Missouri Department of Conservation to get input on the outdoor education classes and ways they can work together.

“They have an education program, so we're going to see what resources they have that we could use, such as guest speakers in hunting and fishing that can give more expertise to it,” Hopper said.

Coffman said the class will be popular, because he often hears his students talk about their hunting and fishing experiences.

“(The class) will attract another sector of students that may have only had the basic required phys ed class, but will be able to try another that interests them,” Coffman said. “I know I had good times camping when I was a kid, and now there will be more opportunities for them.”

Greenwell said he would enjoy a class on hunting safety, fishing and camping. 

“I’d take it,” Greenwell said. “I live in the country and do these things a lot.”

If the class is approved, it will most likely be offered to sophomores, juniors and seniors.

When evaluating curriculum changes, Hopper said they looked at school districts in Jefferson City, St. Joseph, Kansas City and St. Louis that are comparable to Columbia, and quite a few had outdoor education classes.

Other impacts

Hopper said that few modifications will be made for PE  programs at new middle schools because these classes are currently similar at middle school and junior high levels.

The only major change comes to sixth grade students who have PE class for 45 minutes every other day but will have either PE or health class for 30 minutes each day next year. Seventh and eighth graders will still have 45 minutes of  PE every other day. 

As for staffing, no new teachers will be hired because high schools underwent a reorganization process to shuffle teachers around, said Michelle Baumstark, community relations director for Columbia Public Schools.

Class sizes will also remain the same. Incoming freshmen will replace students redistricted to Battle High School opening in the fall.

Supervising editor is Simina Mistreanu

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