Physical Education Programs At Chicago Public Schools Given Two And A Half Years To Reevaluate

Although Chicago Public Schools and the Chicago Teachers Union have come to an agreement about lengthening the school day that will halt expansion of the program beyond 13 pilot schools for now, Chicago School Board members agreed Wednesday to grant districts two and a half years to adjust physical education programming around the new schedules.

Lengthening the school day by 90 minutes stands to create up to 200 job openings for gym teachers, the Chicago Sun-Times reports. It will also allow for a reshuffling of health, driver's education, and other courses typically offered instead of daily P.E. for 11th and 12th graders citywide, a loophole that keeps roughly 36,000 of 42,000 CPS juniors and seniors out of gym class.

CPS has been praised for its strong physical education programs--fourteen schools were honored at a White House reception last month, and five more receive distinguished certification, according to the Chicago Tribune. When First Lady Michelle Obama announced the "Go for Gold" challenge in February 2010, CPS vowed to have 100 schools achieve the gold standard in healthy food and fitness by 2013.

In the face of these challenges, the Board voted to renew a "waiver" in place since 1997 that allows CPS schools to avoid the state's daily physical education requirement for 11th and 12th graders, according to the Sun-Times. CPS CEO Jean-Claude Brizard lobbied for the waiver, saying two and a half years would allow the schools to fit P.E. into the longer school day in a "thoughtful" way, according to the Sun-Times. He also said the lead time could help grow the pool of eligible gym teachers by "giv[ing] us time to encourage people to go into the field."

CPS officials said the waiver was necessary to ensure juniors and seniors have room for classes required for graduation or by certain colleges, the Sun-Times reports.

Chicago Teachers Union President Karen Lewis denounced the waiver, which legitimizes P.E. cuts already happening at the 9th and 10th grade level, and across elementary schools citywide, according to the Sun-Times. She urged CPS to "push yourself" in time to institute daily P.E. by the 2013-2014 school year.