Take PE remotely? U-46 to test online high school phys ed courses

U-46 to test online courses where students can dictate their activity

  • Juniors and seniors play handball in their team sports class at Bartlett High School on Thursday. Elgin Area School District U-46 this fall will be testing an independent, online physical education curriculum, allowing high school students to be in charge of their own wellness.

      Juniors and seniors play handball in their team sports class at Bartlett High School on Thursday. Elgin Area School District U-46 this fall will be testing an independent, online physical education curriculum, allowing high school students to be in charge of their own wellness. Bev Horne | Staff Photographer

  • Freshman Thomas Korzeniowski lifts 225 pounds in his physical education class at Bartlett High School Thursday. Elgin Area School District U-46 will be testing two online physical education courses this fall at Bartlett and Elgin high schools and the district's Dream Academy alternative school. It will allow select high school juniors to be in charge of their own wellness.

      Freshman Thomas Korzeniowski lifts 225 pounds in his physical education class at Bartlett High School Thursday. Elgin Area School District U-46 will be testing two online physical education courses this fall at Bartlett and Elgin high schools and the district's Dream Academy alternative school. It will allow select high school juniors to be in charge of their own wellness. Bev Horne | Staff Photographer

 
 

High school gym class can be challenging for students struggling to keep up with more developed peers or juggling packed schedules due to increased academic demands.

Elgin Area School District U-46 officials are now recognizing that participating in a traditional physical education class is not for everyone.

This fall, U-46 is launching two online physical education courses allowing some high school students to be in charge of their own wellness by self-monitoring and recording their weekly physical activity outside school using heart-rate monitors.

The pilot program will involve 125 juniors at Bartlett and Elgin high schools and the district's Dream Academy alternative program.

"Physical education is more than moving kids," said Tracey Jakaitis, U-46 student wellness curriculum coordinator. "There's a lot of social, emotional, medical reasons why kids don't like physical education class, but it doesn't mean they don't like physical activity.

"Our new curriculum is all about choice. Traditional doesn't work for everybody, but online is not going to work for everybody, either."

Jakaitis said students need to develop a better understanding of why physical activity and being healthy is important and how they can stay fit.

Earlier this week, the school board approved the curriculum, assessments and resources for two new, semesterlong online physical education courses aimed at building students' fitness skills, knowledge and independent practice to improve their personal fitness. They will provide students flexibility to choose when and where they learn about and engage in physical activity.

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Officials said the goal is to better meet students' academic, medical, social or emotional needs if they desire another option for completing physical education requirements.

Jakaitis said juniors and seniors pursuing various career pathways have a lot more demands on their time to complete coursework and internships, leading many students to get physical education waivers.

Students participating in the program will be required to log 150 minutes each week in their target heart-rate zone -- roughly between 140 and 175 beats per minute for about 30 minutes a day. They can perform any physical activity as long as they hit that fitness target.

"They might just be running every day because that's what they want to do -- that's what they enjoy," Jakaitis said.

Students' activity logs are uploaded through the heart-rate monitors. A teacher oversees students' online content and participation in discussion questions, quizzes, tests and blogs.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

Jakaitis acknowledged there are challenges with an online course and student participation will be based on the honor system.

"There is a level of integrity we hope students will bring, but we also know they can cheat the system," she said. "We do have two heart-rate monitor physical activity checks. (Students) have to come into school to be sure they can show that they can maintain a target heart rate for 30 minutes in a controlled environment.

"This is also why we are doing the pilot with a small group of students. If we feel there is too much dishonesty and do not see student cardio health improve from the pretest to the post-test, we do not want to continue with this program."

U-46 will be spending $18,848 for the technology and teacher training needed to serve those 125 students this fall. Student pay a $15 fee.

The courses will be offered to the entire junior class at all five district high schools and the Dream Academy in the 2020-21 school year, rolling up to seniors the following year.

The district also has adopted a variety of new physical education courses promoting a physically active lifestyle, moving away from the emphasis on team sports, at its six high schools.

Starting this fall, high school freshmen can take courses on functional fitness, strength and performance, walking for wellness, and officiating and coaching in team sports.

The goal is to appeal to students with varying interests and abilities who typically don't participate in physical education classes. Those semesterlong courses also will be available to interested sophomores, juniors and seniors.

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