For at least one more school year, Glenbard High School District 87 high schools will allow some seniors to opt out of physical education classes.
Currently, seniors who either play a sport, have been admitted to college, or have completed graduation requirements can obtain a physical education waiver. But in 2007, district officials adopted a strategic plan that included the phasing out of such waivers.
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It was expected that this year's seniors would be the last group to be eligible for waivers, but a 6-0 school board vote Monday has extended the opportunity for one more year.
Supporters of the waivers, including parents and students who spoke at Monday's meeting, argued that the waivers allow high achieving students the opportunity to take more rigorous advanced placement classes, which improves their chances of being accepted at highly selective colleges. But district administrators asked the board to continue the current phase-out policy, which had been supported by principals, department chairs and members of the teachers union.
Board member Mary Ozog, who has supported PE waiver eligibility for juniors and seniors, said Monday's decision was a "partial answer" since only seniors will be eligible, and the same debate will likely come before the board next year.
Fiona Bare, a junior at Glenbard West, told board members that she takes a full slate of advanced placement courses but also takes a required "zero hour" PE class before school at 6:45 a.m.
Her father, Simon, said parents and their children should decide what is best for them.
"It's important to send the right message to highly motivated students," he said. "There should be flexibility. We have a one-size fits everybody model here."
Ozog said as an example that college admissions offices could give a favorable advantage to students who have four years of a foreign language, compared to three. And many students aren't able to take four years of a language if they're taking PE during that time, she said.
"If we're looking at $100,000 in scholarship opportunities, we're talking about impacting lives and where people could attend school," Ozog said.
Rod Molek, the district's assistant superintendent for human resources, said the waivers give some students an unfair advantage.
"It creates an imbalance where there's opportunity for some students and not others," Molek said. "It chips away at a school's culture."
Gary Heilers, the physical education department chair at Glenbard North, said just as academic classes are preparing students for college and the workforce, PE classes are preparing students for a lifetime of health and fitness. He said he's concerned that some students are overextending themselves and not finding balance.
"If we open the waiver process up, students will continue to work on their strengths and not their weaknesses," Heilers said. "Physical education is valuable for all."
District administrators have indicated the current seven period student day schedule could be a topic of discussion in upcoming collective bargaining meetings with the teachers union. If an extra period is added, future discussions about PE waivers could be a moot point, Molek said.