Worries mount in Idaho, nation over lack of physical education

Idaho StatesmanJanuary 26, 2012 

In Idaho, Sherman Elementary School’s 530 students fill the gym each morning, spending the first 20 minutes of their school day in motion.

On Wednesday, the Nampa kids, their teachers and Principal Nancy Chopko did the Macarena and the Cotton-Eyed Joe.

The primary goal is to get kids energized and ready for a day of learning, but the daily dance and exercise also boosts the school’s physical education offerings and dovetails with a state and national effort to combat childhood obesity, said PE teacher Kerri Kennel, who initiated the morning motion program several years ago when she and Chopko worked at Nampa’s Lake Ridge Elementary. The program continues at Lake Ridge, and other district schools make similar efforts

Lake Ridge, and other district schools make similar efforts.

It’s just one of many ways Idaho schools and teachers go beyond limited PE class time to help fight an epidemic of overweight, under-active children.

In Boise, eight elementary schools offer various physical activities at lunch through a Lifetime Movers grant, providing 90 minutes of weekly exercise on top of the hour of designated PE classes, said Corinne Morgan, PE specialist for Koelsch and White Pine elementaries.

“It’s fun and it cuts down on the behaviors during lunch that can cause them problems,” Morgan said.

Recent studies have shown that 17 percent of the nation’s 6- to 19-year-olds are obese, and more than a third are overweight. The rates have about doubled in the past three decades.

CONGRESS TAKES NOTE

As cash-strapped public schools have cut back on spending for physical education, some members of Congress want to intervene, worried that the nation’s schools are churning out too many fat children.

In Washington state, the Franklin Pierce School District near Tacoma discovered that it could save a quarter-million dollars by reassigning its seven PE teachers to different positions. And in New York, a city audit found that just 6 percent of the city’s schools came anywhere near to offering the required weekly two hours of PE for elementary-age children.

When Congress considers overhauling its federal education law early this year, a bipartisan group of 85 House members wants to include language that would pressure schools to offer more PE: Their idea is to force school officials to issue yearly reports on how much time students engage in physical activity, making it easier for the public to compare schools.

Read the complete story at idahostatesman.com

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