SBHS officials weigh giving PE credits for band, other activities

San Benito High’s Scarlet Regiment Band performs in the Veterans Day Parade in November. Photo by Nick Lovejoy

San Benito High School Superintendent John Perales urged trustees to consider a more liberal approach to physical education class waivers during the board meeting this week.
The proposed board policy would allow cheerleader, marching band and color guard students to get waivers for the sophomore PE class if they met certain fitness standards. The waiver would free up those students’ schedules so they can take other elective courses during the school day including art, agriculture, wood, metal or dance, according to an agenda report.
Currently, sophomore students at San Benito High School must take a PE class—worth 2.5 elective credits—but can have this requirement waived if they participate in athletics. Those participating in band and color guard, which some argue also offer huge cardiovascular benefits, don’t get the same perks.
Two members of the public—Jennifer Coile and Rob Bernosky—asked that more people be part of the discussion during public comment. Trustees didn’t take action. Board President Ray Rodriguez asked that a draft policy come back to the board.
“I don’t know how you can make a decision like this without actually having the physical education teachers (here) because they’re the experts” said Bernosky, a parent of a San Benito High School student.
Bernosky contended the proposed plan would leave just “overweight, lazy kids” in the PE class, when everyone—including athletes—should be there, allowing people of all backgrounds to interact with one another on teams without electronics, he said.
Coile, a former Baler Band Booster and color guard mom, supported having marching band and color guard qualify for a PE class waiver. She also suggested a workshop setting might be better than a board meeting for this topic since it would allow a discussion among trustees and community members.
Perales advocated trustees adopt a PE program that would enroll all freshmen in PE classes, but exempt sophomores if they successfully complete certain extracurricular activities. Under the proposed plan, students would have to successfully pass the FitnessGram—a federally sponsored exercise test—during their freshman year in order to get PE waived by involvement in extracurricular activities the following year.
The policy might mean the school has fewer sections of PE but it would also open up students’ schedules by allowing them to take other elective classes during that time, Perales explained.
Trustee Juan Robledo, a former ASB advisor, added he liked the idea of freeing up students’ schedules.
“And I like the idea of teaching people about physical movement and all of that but as I watch our society, it seems we’re becoming very attuned to that,” he said, referencing local runners and gyms.
Later in the meeting, Robledo added that even the school’s PE teachers seemed divided on the waivers subject when he talked with them. One recommended students should take four years of PE, he said. Another said athletes should get elective credits for participating in sports, he explained.
Neighboring school districts such as Morgan Hill Unified, Salinas Union High School District and Monterey Peninsula Unified offer no elective credit for PE classes and don’t give waivers to students participating in extracurricular activities.
But the Los Gatos/ Saratoga Joint High School District offers elective credit for PE classes with credit also given to those participating in extracurriculars such as band, color guard and school sports.
Perales supports the change in board policy because he liked the idea of having a carrot for students to perform well on the Fitnessgram, he said. He also liked the idea of looking into some sort of independent studies program that would allow those in competitive rodeo, gymnastics and possibly top-level motocross a chance to be recognized for the rigors of their sport, he explained.
“They wouldn’t be many of the things that we’d receive but we’d see some exceptions where they could use the independent studies-type approach,” Perales said.
Trustee Bill Tiffany, cautioned that it can be hard to draw the line between real physical activity and “something a little bit different,” he said.
“That’s the hard thing,” he said. “How you’re going to differentiate between different things.”
Perales also clarified that under the proposed plan winter drumline and marching band would qualify for a PE class waiver, but not regular band class.

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