The South-Western City School Board of Education approved new graduation requirements at the May 19 special meeting, but not without some concern from board members.
Students will still be required to complete a total of 21 credits, but the revised policy allows some students to opt out of physical education. Some board members expressed concern about the revision due to the growing rate of childhood obesity.
"I am a huge proponent of physical education and healthy lifestyles," said board member Mindy Garverick.
Superintendent Dr. Bill Wise explained that the revision gives students the opportunity to opt out of physical education due to scheduling conflicts. For example, if a student takes all their basic classes then participates in strings, band and choir, they can decide not to take physical education. Wise said it is the families that make the decision – not the district.
Students cannot get out of physical education to take an independent study. They have to replace it with something, like a fine arts elective.
"This is a natural extension of what is offered to band students," said Garverick.
South-Western Education Association President Rolla Beach asked the board to take more time before passing the revised policy.
"The process is rushed and lacking analysis," said Beach. "This decision should be made after thorough analysis."
Beach said the board has not taken the time to review the value of physical education.
Board member Randy Reisling said he would support the new policy, but would like the board to revisit it.
"An important part of the physical education curriculum is missing," said Reisling. "Due to scheduling conflicts, we’re already letting kids opt out of physical education in seventh and eighth grades."
The district approved the policy to meet minimum standards set forth by the Ohio Department of Education.
The board also passed a resolution to oppose Senate Bill 57. The bill, proposed by the Ohio General Assembly, would create a special education scholarship program to provide vouchers for disabled children in grades K-12 to attend alternative public or private education programs.
Board member William McCarty said the district opposes the bill and other voucher programs that take public dollars away from public schools. He explained that the program would cost school districts statewide roughly $160 million per year. McCarty said state resources should be used to improve public schools and allow them to educate students, not encourage them to leave.
The current system allows school districts to use outside providers if the district cannot meet the needs of a particular special education student.