The future of Physical Education for kids across Seattle Public Schools

In December of 2014, Seattle Public Schools convened a Task Force of individuals to review, revise, monitor, communicate and evaluate policies and procedures governing physical education and physical activity. As the coordinator of our school-based indoor rowing program, Erg Ed, I was asked to join this team. I was absolutely delighted! What a better way to help create positive change for our students than working at the very top to influence the policies and rules?!

The Task Force consists of twelve people, all with ties to our local public school communities – parents, experts in health and wellness, administrators, coaches, and others who have committed their lives working on behalf of children’s health.

I have always had an interest in P.E. and student health. As a teacher, athlete, coach, and mother, I have witnessed and experienced firsthand just how important activity and movement can be in a child’s day. Plenty of published scientific studies have demonstrated that healthy kids learn better. Despite this evidence, funding for P.E. is being cut or limited resulting in decreased access to P.E. classes. I am concerned that P.E. is not as respected as math, language arts, science – and this is coming from a former math teacher! What is most concerning is that while there is a general understanding about the epidemic of childhood obesity, we fail to see a match in efforts to increase movement, physical education, free play (recess), and health in our schools. In fact, in the SPS, many students take the opportunity to opt OUT of P.E. through the existing waiver system. This allows students to skip important opportunities for physical education to support lifelong fitness and movement within their school day.

In my dream world, our entire culture would shift, especially in our schools. We would value and prioritize health and wellness. We would be able to provide opportunities and education to each and every one of our students to ensure lifelong health and wellness. P.E. is an excellent starting point, as it teaches our children how to be healthy adults, and encourages them to be active, healthy citizens in our community. However, this shift does not need to be limited to P.E., but rather should be taken on by the school as a whole. We need all teachers and administrators to embrace the importance of P.E. and movement throughout the school day. Where can we find more opportunities for activity throughout the school day? Can we as teachers help children to be more active throughout the day? What can we do to inspire more movement and play?

I’m looking forward to working with the Task Force to bring positive change to P.E. across SPS. We will focus our attention on current P.E. requirements within the school day, as well as the policies surrounding P.E. waiver requirements. Our first proposal for policy change will be submitted to the SPS School Board in April.

Questions and comments? Feel free to email Heather Alschuler at erged@rowtothefuture.org.

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