Keep PE at FIVE DAYS a week

Yesterday a small group of concerned citizens went to the Pinellas County School Board meeting to talk about pending changes to the physical education schedule for elementary schools.  Like so many changes that impact our children, this change was not discussed with parents to see what they thought about it. The changes appear to be necessitated by scheduling challenges and right now decisions are in the hands of the individual principals.  They have until the end of May to set their schedules for the next school year, so if parents would like to see their kids have some kind of physical activity during EVERY school day, then NOW is the time to call the school and make your wishes known.

Pinellas County used to be a national model for physical education under the leadership of George K. Jones who retired in 2000. In a conversation with him he told me it was always a battle to get kids moving during the school day because it wasn’t considered academic.  He says it shouldn’t be a matter of reading versus PE. It should be both. Yet here we are going backwards on the progress even though we have more research that connects healthy bodies with healthy minds and we have escalating chronic health problems. When kids get to exercise, their brains are more receptive and they retain more information. Test scores go up.  Behavior problems go down. And for teachers, well, they get to teach kids who have been allowed to expel some of that pent up energy.  Read his column n the Tampa Bay Times here: http://www.tampabay.com/opinion/columns/column/2118810

A local mom who came with us yesterday and shared that her son’s first grade teacher spends as much time reprimanding kids for talking as she does actually teaching. Without recess, kids have no time to do what kids are programmed to do: talk, move around and socialize.  “Especially for the boys,” she said, adding, “The teacher can’t tell them to save it for the playground, because they don’t get to go to the playground.”  She said that many parents at her school are upset about the number of warnings their kids get for talking and they realize it’s because kids are being asked to behave in ways that are unnatural.  Those warnings can have negative impacts on how kids perceive school and negatively impact their self image when it comes to the ability to fit in and please.   “Employees are legally given a right to a break, why not our kids?”

Dr. Chrisoula Kiriazis, a Clearwater physician and co-founder of Be a Fit Kid spoke on behalf of the physiological reasons for kids to move daily. She told board members that not only do their developing bodies need to move every day, but that early good habits start young.  She believes that physical activity should be a daily activity like lunch, and should never be on the table for cuts no matter what the reason.

Dr. Greg Savel of Myrtle Avenue Pediatrics shares this belief about daily activity and was interviewed yesterday on Channel 10’s morning news about the importance of keeping kids moving daily. He says that this generation of kids are not expected to live as long as their parents because of many social factors, and that because of that we have an imperative to do what is best for the overall well being of our children.

We took advantage of the timing and shared information about the National PE and Sport Week (May 1 – 7) that had the theme Let’s Move! Active Schools.  Their message to schools is that PHYSICAL ACTIVITY ISN’T AN OPTION. IT’S A NECESSITY.  They are calling on communities everywhere to get involved and make sure that kids get to move before, during and after school.  The president of the American Alliance for Health, Physical Education, Recreation and Dance (AAHPERD) wrote a letter to the Pinellas County School Board asking them to maintain their policy of daily PE. He cited many reasons including:  curbs childhood obesity, improves attention and concentration, creates a positive attachment to school and improves graduation rates.

As an advocate for healthy and happy families, GoodLiving magazine feels strongly that we need to do whatever we can for kids to achieve their maximum potential. Here are some of my comments from yesterday:

“Our young people today are the first generation predicted to have a shorter life span than their parents. They face challenges like we’ve never seen and the results are epidemic obesity, epidemic drug abuse, suicide, eating disorders, malnutrition, chronic diseases at young ages, behavior challenges and learning disorders.  To fight this, children need more physical activity not less.

Their parents are working longer hours than ever and we live in unsafe times. Kids lack the freedom we all once knew to play outside until dark. In fact our moms demanded it, didn’t they?  This is not how today’s children live.

At school they are structured from the beginning of the day to the end of the day something that prompted a parent to comment, “these are small children, not machines.”

We urge Pinellas County schools to view PE, and even recess, as a necessity to increase greater well being and academic achievement for students that cannot be sacrificed for any reason.  Our kids need more activity not less.”

We are grateful that WFLA Ch 8 and ABC Action News came out to cover our cause. And also to Allison Kropf and Ch 10 for the morning interview.  It was nice to see that big media responded to something that was in the best interest of local kids.  It was special because it was a day that saw news coverage for the freed kidnap victims in Ohio and numerous other various hard news stories ~ and so we don’t take this airtime for granted.  We wouldn’t be working so hard to get the word out if we didn’t feel it was an issue of critical importance.

There are points in life that we can look back and say, “That was the turning point.”   We believe that allowing our commitment to daily PE slip away now will be such a turning point for our schools. We must hold our standards high and fight to maintain what is best for our kids.  If we don’t do it now, we send the signal that reducing PE is okay, and the course is set for the future.

by Pamela Settle, Publisher and Editor of GoodLiving Magazine

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Written by Pamela Settle, owner of Light Shine Media Group and publisher of GoodLiving® Magazine. All Rights Reserved. No part of this blog may be reproduced without permission.

GoodLiving Magazine® is printed six times a year for families in Pinellas County, Florida, home to municipalities including Clearwater, Tarpon Springs, Dunedin, Largo and St. Petersburg. The densest county in Florida, population is near 1 Million people. Past issues are available for viewing digitally on the website.

As an advocate for children and families, Pamela Settle serves as the local committee chairperson for The Children’s Movement of Florida, a non-partisan advocacy organization that works on behalf of the well being of children throughout the State of Florida.