Mandatory P.E. Contested at Board Meeting

During a board meeting on April 21, parents and educators spoke to the MVLA school board about the implications of Education Code 51242 (EC 51242), which would potentially exempt student-athletes from the mandatory physical education requirement during their freshman year sports seasons.

EC 51242 allows the high school administration to exempt freshman students from enrolling in a P.E. course as long as he or she participates in a school-sponsored sport. Since 2009, the administrations at LAHS and MVHS have chosen not to exercise the education code. 

Recently parents have been more vocal at school board meetings about the mandatory freshman year P.E. class. The most recent board meeting on May 12 was moved from its normal site at the district office to the Alta Vista multi-purpose room to accommodate the larger attendance.

A majority of parents at the meeting were in favor of implementing the code, arguing that it was unnecessary for student athletes to take P.E. and that time could be better used for other electives. Sam Cramer, who will be a freshman in high school next year, said that mandatory P.E. would force him to choose between a music class or a language class instead of both. Vincent Lewis, a music teacher at Blach Intermediate School, argued the importance of giving students opportunities to practice music, because many give up their playing without a structured setting. He believes P.E. would take away from that valuable time.

However, opponents of the code, among them the School Board President Joe Mitchner, suggested zero period P.E. as a way to fit more electives into students’ schedules. In response, some parents have said that the energy required to play a sport and P.E. every day, and the early wake-up times required made it an unappealing option. Furthermore, some opponents also noted that most athletes would not be able to take additional electives with the exempted P.E. time, as athletes would still have to participate in P.E. during their off-seasons.

The costs and benefits of physical education, exercise and sleep deprivation were also discussed during the meeting.

Several P.E. teachers attended the meeting and argued the importance of P.E. for students.

“P.E. offers several benefits that extracurricular sports do not, because it teaches content areas, covers multiple sports and has a co-ed environment,” Athletic Director Kim Cave said.

Board member Phil Faillace interpreted the code as applying in limited circumstances. He thought the P.E. exemption would only be given to students during their active sports seasons, and did not exempt them from written assignments or other requirements of the class, such as passing fitness tests. Overall, however, he was in favor of some changes to the way the district enforced the code. 

Faillace argued a class may have benefits for students, but this does not mean all students need to be required to take it.

As of the press deadline, the board members seem to be 3-2 in favor of keeping freshman P.E. mandatory. Judy Hanneman, Joe Mitchner and Susan Sweeley seem to support the status quo while Phil Faillace and Debbie Torok seem open to allowing P.E. exemption in some cases.

Before any formal action can be taken, alignment concerns will need to be addressed between the two schools. At Mountain View, sports hold practice after sixth period, while at Los Altos practice starts after seventh period. The difference in the athletics programs currently would impact which P.E. classes student athletes could be missing.

Superintendent Barry Groves said that the board’s decision will not likely impact next year’s freshmen, but possibly those the year after.