Board should revoke ninth grade P.E. exemption, institute guidelines instead

Exemption is unnecessary for freshmen, devalues P.E.’s unique aspects.


Miranda Li


In February, the Mountain View-Los Altos school board approved a freshman physical education exemption, in effect at both Los Altos and Mountain View High Schools, for school athletes who are taking at least seven classes, including P.E. Currently, freshmen with the exemption have a free period in place of P.E during their sports season. In their off season, students enter a seventh period P.E. transition class to fill the rest of the semester with physical activity.

Due to implementation issues and the fact that it erroneously undervalued P.E., the board should revoke the current policy. In its place, the board should create a set of guidelines to relieve the occasional increase in physical activity when athletes have school sports competitions and P.E. assignments on the same day.

The school is encountering logistical issues while implementing the exemption. Counselors refer freshmen directly to the administration because the scheduling system is not equipped to match students into a transition and regular P.E. class. Because the school must handle over 60 exemptions on a case-by-case basis due to the variations in students’ schedules, this system is not efficient and creates confusion for everyone involved.

Freshmen parents emphasized that their students needed the exemption to accommodate overwhelming workloads. However, freshman year is designed to ease students into high school life. Freshmen are limited in number of Advanced Placement and honors courses they can take, which gives them the least challenging course load compared to that of other grades.

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In addition, the school already provides ample time and resources for freshmen to complete assignments. A first-year student is still learning high school-level time management, and upperclassmen who have gone through a well-structured first year are better equipped with the skills to maximize this study time. Freshman year is not overwhelming in many cases, and if it is, parents should understand that P.E. is not to blame; in fact, P.E. relieves more stress than it creates.

P.E. is a place for students to learn about the value of exercise in a relaxed, social environment. The class is especially conducive to freshmen athletes, who have the opportunity to play a variety of sports without the same pressure to perform well as in their sport. The educational and stress-relieving aspects of P.E. for student athletes are undervalued when freshmen are exempted, especially when there is no necessity for a free period.

The course is a worthwhile experience for all freshmen, regardless of their involvement in sports. It allows students structured, non-academic time between their academic classes. P.E. is one of the few times during high school where students can interact in a non-academic environment with peers from diverse backgrounds, and continuing the exemption would widen the separation between student athletes and students who do not have the resources to pursue a sport.

Under the proposed replacement for the exemption, student athletes will communicate with their P.E. teachers about reducing their physical activity in class on game days, meets, or other school sport competitions days. The P.E. teachers would then excuse student athletes from completing exhaustive activities, such as running the mile.

Student athletes also would not have to complete P.E. make-up work from days they miss because of games or meets. The student’s coach would confirm that the student was at the game, then the teacher would excuse the student from making up work they missed from that day.

Ironically, the administration, athletic and P.E. departments at the school were already integrating these suggestions based on feedback from parents’ concerns prior to the board’s action.
While stress varies from student to student, the exemption is not tackling freshmen stress in the most productive way. It also discounts the value in P.E.’s unique educational and stress-relieving qualities. By creating teacher guidelines for excusing athletes on game days, the district ensures that all student athletes are relieved from unnecessary physical stress while receiving all the benefits of P.E. class.

Read more about the exemption implementation here.