Opinion

In this wonderful age of technology where our children can now run, play ball, bowl, golf etc. all from the comforts of their couch, where "I'm not done with this level now" takes the place of dinner time, I would like to bring up a recent and ongoing audit of schools being done by New York State Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli. His office probed into whether schools are meeting the State Education Department's minimum requirements for Physical Education (PE). The one lone district in compliance was the Homer district in upstate Cortland County, according to the audit's report. This story was reported on Dec. 12, 2008 called "Study: Most school districts are deficient on physical education."

DiNapoli said in October that his office embarked on the audit because providing adequate physical education classes to children can reduce the $242 million in obesity-related health costs to the state each year." The audit looked to see whether a sampling of districts provided enough time for PE. The state requires that students in kindergarten through third grade participate in physical education every day, for a total of at least 120 minutes each week. In fourth through sixth grades, students must have at least 120 minutes spread out over three days a week. As of now the children in our district have 90 minutes of PE each week.

This law as stated "The growing culture of overweight and obese Americans is not only a national public health crisis, but a threat to all children. According to the 2005 Youth Risk Behavior Survey conducted in New York schools, students are progressively becoming overweight. Asthma, diabetes and cardiovascular disease are some of the health complications suffered by our overweight students which often detract from their focus on learning.

"The Wellness Policy requirement of the Child Nutrition Reauthorization Act, instituted this past July, demonstrates the efforts made by the federal government to raise national awareness about providing adequate nutrition and physical activity for all students. This memo was designed to provide guidance as the means to address these critical issues facing New York State students through application of the New York State Learning Standards for Health, Physical Education

and Family and Consumer Science www.emsc.nysed.gov/ciai/cores.htm#PhyEd and Part No. 135 of the Regulations of the Commissioner of Education at

www.emsc.nysed.gov/ciai/pe/pub/part135.pdf."

I brought up the audit at a recent board meeting and was told that our children partake in breathing exercises and some sort of reading relays to make up for any missed NYS requirements. When I later asked my own children to re-enact these breathing and relay exercises they had no idea what I was talking about.

This does not include recess, which as many of you are aware is also used as a detention time for misbehavior and/or missed assignments. Thus also taking away exercise time. According to the NYS law this is not permitted.

The audit found that most of the districts, including Long Island schools, did not provide enough time at the elementary level; NHP/GCP is on the audit list but has not been investigated at this time. I was told that we are cooperating with the regulations and any papers reqarding these requirements were sent in last year. Our children are not getting the NYS requirements for PE and exercise. Unfortunately you can go to any of our school yards and see something has to be done.

Jean C. Stevens, Interim Deputy Commissioner stated in a memo "The obesity crisis in our nation is a fact, and our students must have quality physical education programs as a part of the prevention process. Recent research is beginning to show a positive relationship between vigorous activity and improved academic performance. The inclusion of this collaborative and integrated approach to meeting the elementary physical education requirement is encouraged and should be reflected in the school district plan for physical education pursuant to Section 135.4(a) of the Commissioner's Regulations. Working together, all New York State students will be able to achieve academically and adopt active lifestyles in pursuit of a lifetime of wellness."

As the old adage goes "a healthy body is a healthy mind."

Michele Chambers


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