Bartlett students upset over denial of PE waivers
Nearly 45 Bartlett High School students upset over being denied waivers for gym class for next school year appealed to district authorities Monday night.
Students and parents urged the Elgin Area School District U-46 school board to reconsider the decision of Bartlett High School's administration to deny physical education waivers to several dozen students who constitute some of the top achievers at the school.
Only two students were granted waivers for gym class, even though dozens of students taking honors and Advanced Placement courses, and who belong to the school's Science, Technology, Engineering and Math Academy, had applied for the waivers, according to those who spoke Monday.
Not granting gym waivers to seniors disadvantages students trying to cram in courses needed for college admission, said student Marina Filipek, who also plays on a travel soccer league.
Her twin sister, Kayla Filipek, an elite swimmer at Bartlett High who trains for more than 22 hours a week, said she certainly doesn't need gym class to be in shape.
The sisters are part of the STEM Academy and have a more than 4.7 grade-point average with each taking a mix of seven AP and honors classes, said mother Miriam Filipek of Bartlett.
"What's more relevant is the amount of physical activity they perform in and out of school," Miriam Filipek said. "These are serious students who do not wish to waste precious learning time in a 'study hall' ... with all their distractions. I would think the high school would welcome students who'd prefer a more rigorous schedule."
Several speakers claimed it was a seeming change in policy this year that was not communicated to families beforehand.
U-46 CEO Tony Sanders said per state law, students must provide evidence that they will not be admitted to their college of choice if unable to take the courses they desire.
"This is a state of Illinois issue, and not a U-46 issue," he said.
But last week, in an appearance at Glenbard East High School in Lombard, Gov. Bruce Rauner proposed giving schools more freedom to provide physical education waivers to student-athletes. New bills have been introduced in the House and Senate.
Aishwarya Jois of Streamwood, a junior in the academy program, said she has had a packed schedule since freshman year and has maintained a nearly 4.9 grade-point average.
"I've been trying to plan all my classes around this PE exemption," she said. "This (denial) does seem arbitrary to me and we were not adequately informed."
Many students complained their plans to get into top-tier schools have been disrupted because they now are forced to accommodate an hour of gym class every day during senior year when they could be taking courses necessary for their chosen fields of study.
Students have the option of taking gym class for six weeks during the summer, but some already have made plans for internships or jobs.
"I don't have time for that," said Perav Shah, a junior from West Chicago.
At the end of public comments, Sanders added he will schedule a meeting with parents, students and the school's administration to further discuss the requirements of state law and board policy with respect to the PE waiver.