To the extent that I provide opinions, everyone should understand that they are my opinions and I am not speaking on behalf of the Board or any other Board members.

This Thursday (8pm in the Columbia Middle School Cafeteria) the administration will be responding to a request by the Board of Ed (I initiated this request) to investigate the benefits and negatives of a policy that will waive the attendance requirement for physical education, for students who are playing a sport, in that season.

Whether you or your children favor this change in policy or are against it, it would be great if you would come to the meeting so we can hear your thoughts.  It would be especially useful if the students turn out to be heard.

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I wanted to share my rationale for asking the administration to look into implementing the waiver.

I believe that the mandate of the district is to do the best that we can to address the whole student.  To this end, I believe that the teamwork, individual performance, accountability, self esteem and physical confidence associated with high school sports are each very important. I recognize that the demands of sports can interfere with the academic and other responsibilities, which should be a higher priority.

We have recently expanded the elective offerings at the high school and have been told by the administration that students are taking more electives and fewer study periods as a result of the pressures of the ever more competitive college entrance process.

The combination of sports (between daily practices, games and travel to and from away games) and classwork is potentially overly taxing of the students and stress inducing.  This can threaten academic success.

Physical Education is important for the physical and psychological development of students that are not participating in sports but for athletes in their season, who are certainly getting athletic development time, the time could potentially be much better spent as a study period. By the time the students get to High School, the other positive lessons that come from Phys Ed have been achieved by the grade school and middle school programs.

The state allows for students to waive out of Physical Education in the Season that they are playing a sport.

I believe that allowing students to waive out of phys ed in the seasons that they are playing sports (that is get a study period in the slot that they have phys ed) could:

1) provide additional study time for students that are playing a sport, to partially compensate for the time commitment to sports

2) potentially encourage more students to play a sport, by alleviating the academic burden concern

3) potentially encourage more students to take an elective that they would otherwise be reluctant to take because of time pressures

Each of these would be positives for the students from an academic, physical and rounding perspective.

Additionally, the additional physical stress that gym class represents for an athlete in their season and risk of injury that would prevent them from participating in the sports that often become a very important part of the student’s identity during their high school years.

When the students are not in season, they will have Phys Ed and they will still have to attend health, irrespective of their sports participation. I would expect the waiver to be optional, so any student that would like to attend P.E. class, could choose to not pursue the waiver.

Whether you are in favor or against the implementation of the waiver of physical education, it would be great if you came to the meeting and made your opinion heard.

I am happy to discuss this with anyone who has questions.

Editor's Note: Bill Cassano, Vice President of the Berkeley Heights Board of Education writes a blog "Bill Cassano BH Board of Education Updates" to communicate with people that are interested in the Berkeley Heights Board of Education.