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Orlando Schools Prepare To Shape Up

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         Views: 1481
2011-04-17 01:53:55     
Article by George Rivera

When students in Orlando Schools return to school this fall they should prepare to shape up. Physically speaking anyway. Florida Governor Charlie Crist just signed into law a new requirement for daily physical education (PE) classes for all kindergarten through 5th grade students. Historically Orlando Schools, and all its Florida counterparts, have allowed local governing agencies to set PE requirements. But new governor Crist thinks it is time for a change.

Prompting his action are numerous reports pointing to the increase in obesity and obesity related diseases in children nationwide. A 2003 task force found that millions of American children are at risk for juvenile diabetes, which is often caused by obesity and a sedentary lifestyle. Add to that these shocking statistics: the percentage of overweight children has tripled since 1980, while the number of schools requiring daily PE classes has dropped from 42% to 28%.

Orlando Schools, which are part of the Orange County District, will need to make some significant changes to meet the new requirements. While Orlando Schools have shown some improvements on statewide test scores, much of that success is attributed to the additional time devoted to intensive math and reading instruction. A recent inquiry of 100 Orange County Schools found that 4 had replaced PE time with academic instruction in math and reading. This has some teachers in Orlando Schools scratching their heads as to where this “extra” PE time is going to come from.

The new mandate will require Orlando Schools to provide 2 Ѕ hours of PE weekly to K-5 students. It “encourages” 3 ѕ hours per week for both middle and high school students. If Governor Crist has his way daily gym classes will be required for all K-12 students by 2012. Some pretty specific things need to happen for Orlando Schools to comply with these requirements.

First of all, Orlando Schools will need to hire more teachers. Teacher requirements have been raised, making the pool smaller than ever. On the plus side, sunny Orlando Schools lure some well-educated transfers from colder climes, so it’s unlikely that finding teachers will be a major issue. The second issue of when Orlando Schools will teach PE is a stickier point. There are no more hours in the school day, so the time that Orlando Schools devote to PE will have to come from somewhere else. Many educators fear that the already dwindling time devoted to art and music will suffer. Others fear that academic advances in math and reading are bound to decline. Still others point to the non-tested areas of science and social studies as the most likely losers.

Even with all these concerns, no one really seems to oppose the idea of increasing physical fitness for the children in Orlando Schools. On the contrary, many teachers and principals applaud the ability to finally let children use their energy in productive and healthy ways. Childhood development research has long supported the fact that physical fitness and good health help students in all other academic and social areas. Orlando Schools just need to figure out the best ways to make that happen.

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