‘MORE MOVEMENT’: G-C approves year-round PE at intermediate schools

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JB Stephens Elementary School PE teacher Erin Stevens helps a student as he learns how to roller skate Jan. 30. Stevens got the idea to bring roller skating to the school after she enjoyed a program through her student teaching several years ago.

Tom Russo-Daily Reporter

GREENFIELD — Greenfield-Central fourth, fifth and sixth graders have extra time in gym class to look forward to next school year.

Lori Katz, Director of Secondary Education, said the school system has opted to staff a full-time physical education teacher at both of the district’s intermediate schools — Greenfield Intermediate and Maxwell Intermediate — rather than having one teacher continue to rotate between schools each semester.

The change takes effect at the start of the 2023-24 school year.

“It doesn’t mean every kid will have PE every day, but they will have it more often and will have a full-time (physical education) in both buildings,” said Katz.

Intermediate school students currently follow a three-day related arts schedule in which they rotate between STEM, music and either art or PE within a daily related arts period.

Each school focuses on art for one whole semester and PE for the other semester, but both schools are switching to a four-day related arts schedule which will enable students to rotate between STEM, music, art and PE each week.

The decision reverses a move made two years ago, when the schools started splitting the time spent on art and PE.

Katz said the reversal came about as she and school leaders discussed how to control related arts class sizes while giving students more time for physical education.

“Kids need to move — particularly at that age — so the more movement we can give them and the more attuned we are to the physical needs of pre-adolescents, the better. We want to give them every opportunity we can do develop some lifelong fitness habits that will hopefully extend beyond intermediate school,” she said.

PE teacher Josh Welch, who now rotates between the district’s two intermediate schools, is in favor of giving students more time to focus on physical education.

“The benefits of having physical education for a full year will help increase our students’ physical activity and level of fitness. It will also give them the opportunity to participate in a variety of activities and continue developing their skills in cooperation, teamwork and sportsmanship,” said Welch, who is not yet certain which school he’ll work at next year.

Maxwell Intermediate School’s principal, Jobie Whitaker, is also a fan of the move.

”We are excited that our students will have the opportunity to participate in PE over the course of a full school year beginning next year. Whether the gym is being used for athletics or PE, it is an extension of our classrooms and many important life skills can be learned through these experiences,” he said.

While students will rotate between STEM, music and PE classes each week, Katz said arts will continue to be offered only one semester at each school each year.

“We’ll split art with something else, but we’re still waiting to see what that something else is. We will have that figured out by the end of this school year,” said Katz, adding that options could include an extra music class or library time.

“Currently, students visit their library/media centers during their English and language arts classes, but this would allow us to dedicate some time to reading within that related arts wheel,” she said.

Moving to a four-day rotation was driven in part by a desire to have a smaller number of students within each related arts class, said Katz.

“There were times where we had four classes going to three different electives, so if we had 25 kids in each classroom that meant 100 kids going into the three electives, which was a larger group that we would like,” she said.

“By adding that (fourth day) back in we’re able to control those related arts classes a little better, and we’re also able to add that extra physical education time for kids.”