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updated: 2/20/2014 7:16 PM

Proposal would let show choirs opt out of gym class

Lawmaker wants performers to get gym exemption

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  • Hersey's Ladies First performs at a past Chicagoland Showcase show choir competition at Hersey High School in Arlington Heights. A suburban Republican lawmaker wants to give show choir participants the chance to opt out of gym class.

       Hersey's Ladies First performs at a past Chicagoland Showcase show choir competition at Hersey High School in Arlington Heights. A suburban Republican lawmaker wants to give show choir participants the chance to opt out of gym class.
    Daily Herald file photo by George Leclaire | Staff Photographer

  • Buffalo Grove's Expressions compete at a past Chicagoland Showcase show choir competition at Hersey High School in Arlington Heights. A suburban Republican lawmaker wants to give show choir participants the chance to opt out of gym class.

       Buffalo Grove's Expressions compete at a past Chicagoland Showcase show choir competition at Hersey High School in Arlington Heights. A suburban Republican lawmaker wants to give show choir participants the chance to opt out of gym class.
    Daily Herald File photo by George Leclaire | Staff Photographer

 
By Marty Hobe
mhobe@dailyherald.com

A suburban lawmaker wants to let high schoolers sing and dance their way out of gym class.

State Rep. Ron Sandack, a Downers Grove Republican, wants to add show choir to the list of activities that can net students a physical education exemption. Already on the list in Illinois are school athletic teams and marching bands.

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Sandack said he drafted a proposal that would include show choirs because performers -- like those on the Fox TV show "Glee" -- are "stretched for time and resources now."

"If you play varsity football or you play soccer or you're in competitive dance for that matter, those are exemptions, why shouldn't (show choir be) as well?" Sandack asked.

Under current law, high schools can allow upperclassmen who play a varsity sport to opt out of gym class when they're active in that sport. Sandack's plan would expand that to underclassmen.

Sandack's proposal would allow exemptions for show choir participants all four years.

Patty Cavaiani of Arlington Heights, vice president of the Buffalo Grove Choral Guild, says her two sons, Joe and Justin, participated in Buffalo Grove High School's show choir group called Expressions -- but doesn't think Sandack's plan is necessary.

"My kids like gym," Cavaiani said, adding that her sons would not take advantage of the exemption if given the chance.

However, Cavaiani added that show choir is as physically demanding as football and basketball, and most members work out outside their rehearsals and performances to be physically ready to perform.

Show choirs have been in the spotlight more in recent years because of "Glee," which has its own ties to the suburbs. The musical comedy was inspired in part by co-creator Ian Brennan's experiences with the Prospect High School show choir in the 1990s.

Judy Tiggelaar, director of advocacy for the Illinois Association for Health, Physical Education, Recreation and Dance, said show choir members still belong in physical education classes, despite the physical demands of the activity.

She said show choir members would be "missing out on the learning standards associated with physical development and health."

Sandack disagreed, and said health lessons are "embedded in the high school experience."

Students who play club sports can't get an exemption under current law, and Sandack didn't address those sports in his proposal.

However, Sandack said if club sports met the same requirements and are supervised to the same degree as a varsity sport, he would consider making gym class exemptions for those activities as well.

Choir: Students in club sports get no exemption

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