Jessica Mazeau teaches physical education at Clifford School in Redwood City, California, five days a week. Her students are in kindergarten through fifth grade and a typical class includes activities such as keep-away with basketballs, hula hooping, and jumping rope. However, Mazeau does not work for the school or for the school district, nor is she a volunteer. Instead, she works for a private company, Rhythm and Moves, which was hired by the school’s parent-teacher organization, to provide physical education and activities for the students after the school’s budget cuts required it to eliminate its programs for students in all grades, except sixth through eighth.
“Clearly, if we don’t fund it the kids are not getting any active outside, except for minimum recess time and lunch time,” said Marilyn Ezrin, co-president of the Clifford School Parent-Teacher Organization.
Along with music education, physical education is becoming a luxury that schools simply cannot afford due to budget cuts and a hurting economy. However, with state requirements in California mandating that students receive 200 minutes of PE classes every 10 days, the responsibility to fulfill this requirement has fallen on classroom teachers.
“P.E. minuets are mandated by the state, but the state hasn’t given us sufficient funds to cover that,” said Amanda Rothengast, the principal at Hoover Community School. “It’s hard to find time to fit in the P.E., and the teachers do the best that they can.”
This kind of situation is what led the parents at the Clifford School to hire an outside company to provide physical education to their students. The Clifford School isn’t the only one who is having to turn to outside sources to solve the problem, but there are also other alternatives for schools whose parent-groups can’t pay the $71,000 that Rhythm and Moves charges to provide a teacher.
The Peninsula Community Center, a local fitness club, teaches classes at seven schools; in these classes, kids play games like volleyball, soccer, and basketball while teachers watch from the sidelines.
“We don’t have P.E. when they are not here,” said Michele McLaren, a teacher at Hoover Community School, where teachers from the Peninsula Community Center come to teach. “Most of the exercise my students are getting is through this program and recess at school.”
Alright, I have to ask: does it really matter if the students are not getting their required 20 minutes of physical education each day? Apparently, it does.
“Physical education is not really taken seriously as part of the core curriculum at the elementary level in the way that it should be,” said Heather Diaz. Diaz is an assistant professor in the Department of Kinesiology and Health Science at California State University. “If a child is unhealthy, that carries through all the other subject matters.”