Naperville District 203 hoping to continue 2-day-a-week Elementary PE

File image District 203 administration building
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A recent request to continue a longstanding practice within Naperville District 203 raised a few questions on the heels of school closures and hybrid learning from COVID-19.

District administrators sought and received authority to file a waiver request with the Illinois State Board of Education to offer physical education classes two days per week for elementary-aged students, rather than the required three days, as outlined in a passage in the school code.

If approved, District 203’s request will begin with the 2023-2024 school year and stay in place for the next five consecutive years. 

Naperville D 203 Reasons For The Waiver

Space and staffing were cited as reasons District 203 has, and continues to, limit physical education courses to two days per week. 

According to documents shared at the school board’s most recent meeting Monday, the waiver also will continue providing a clear pathway for other programs for students in kindergarten to grade 5.

“This will allow increased student access to innovative STEM and library media programming, additional time in multi-tiered systems of support and additional time for recess and social-emotional learning,” a district document reads. 

Superintendent Dan Bridges said the waiver request essentially means District 203 is maintaining a status quo approach to its own program policies at elementary schools. But the formal filing, he said, ensures all bases are covered.

“This is, in essence, discovering that there should be a waiver and going through the process to get that,” Bridges said. “This is to essentially continue the program as we’ve currently implemented.”

Importance Of Staying Active

On the heels of COVID-19 and its impact on learning, several board members expressed concern the waiver could inhibit physical activity, which has been an overarching concern amid broader concerns of childhood obesity.

Board member Amanda McMillen said she viewed physical education classes as a key component to encouraging structure, teamwork and physical activity — all concepts that were impacted in recent years amid virtual and hybrid learning environments. 

Prior to the board’s unanimous vote of approval in support of the waiver request, board member Donna Wandke also raised logistical concerns about the issue — particularly if the Illinois State Board of Education were to deny the waiver request. 

“If this is a space issue, how are we going to approach that if our waiver isn’t approved?” Wandke said. “Is this district prepared?

Physical Activity Outside Phy Ed

While physical education is a key component to promoting movement, exercise and other aspects of physical fitness during the school day, administrators said it is not the only source.

Throughout the school day, elements of movement are integrated into lesson plans — particularly for younger grades.

District 203 more recently also has increased the amount of time allotted for recess during the day to comply with a state law. In recent years, the Illinois Legislature presented a bill, that ultimately was signed into law, requiring elementary students receive a minimum of 30 minutes of recess per school day.

Naperville News 17’s Dave Fidlin reports.

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