Phy ed schedule disappoints school board

WILLMAR -- Some Willmar elementary students will spend less time in physical education classes when the new school year begins Sept. 8. Children in grades K-2 will continue to have phy ed for about 25 minutes each day. Children in grades 3-5 will...

WILLMAR - Some Willmar elementary students will spend less time in physical education classes when the new school year begins Sept. 8.
Children in grades K-2 will continue to have phy ed for about 25 minutes each day. Children in grades 3-5 will have one 50-minute phy ed class every third day, alternating with music and science classes. All children will still have 15 min-
utes of recess before lunch each day.
The Willmar School Board discussed the new schedule at its meeting Monday night.
Board members asked Superintendent Jeff Holm and principals Kristin Dresler at Kennedy Elementary and Lori Lockhart at Roosevelt Elementary to try to develop alternatives that could restore physical activity for the older students.
During the board’s public forum at the beginning of the meeting, parent Meghan Reiman asked that the changes be reconsidered.
“I’m here to express my disappointment in the schedule of physical education for elementary students,” she said. She said she felt young children needed more physical activity and was concerned that students would not get enough time outside a classroom setting.
When the board discussed the schedule, Holm said the issue probably needs to be studied, but he reminded the board that staffing is in place for the current plan with school less than a month way.
Lockhart said they agree that physical activity is important, but they needed to set priorities after budget cuts were made for the coming school year. Each elementary school was required to cut the equivalent of one full-time staff position.
The schools had a choice of cutting a classroom teacher, causing larger class sizes, or of cutting a position from the “allied arts,” things such as music, phy ed or technology, they said.
With the emphasis on the core subjects of math and reading, many things in the schedule are non-negotiable, Lockhart said. The principals needed to find more academic time in the schedule, and they did it by adjusting the PE time, she said.
In the past schedule, English Language Learner students were pulled out of the classroom for language instruction and missed many or all science classes. With the new schedule, no students will be pulled from science classes.
The elementary teachers are skilled at incorporating physical movement into their classrooms, too, they said.
Board members said they were disappointed with the changes. Board member Mike Reynolds said board members said in June they were not happy with what they were hearing about scheduling. “I’m personally ticked off that nothing happened,” he said, though he acknowledged that the principals were just the messengers.
Dresler and Lockhart said they were not informed of a directive from the board. Reynolds said they should have, but the “chain of command” had not worked.
Reynolds and others said they were concerned that federal and state requirements were forcing difficult schedule decisions and cutting into programming the district has called its Hallmarks of Pride.
Holm suggested that the administrators needed to watch the new schedule and study ways to make changes. “If we come to you with a recommendation that makes people feel better about phy ed and makes us feel worse about some other area, we really are trading issues,” he said.
It’s possible that a longer school day could be, he said.
Board member Laura Warne said she’d like to see several possible solutions, “so the board can make financial decisions.”
Board member Mike Carlson agreed. If a longer day or other changes are needed, that will take planning.
“We want to hear this is not permanent,” he said.
After the meeting, Reiman said shrugged and nodded when asked if she was satisfied with the discussion. At least they planned to continue talking about it, she said.

In 42 years in the newspaper industry, Linda Vanderwerf has worked at several daily newspapers in Minnesota, including the Mesabi Daily News, now called the Mesabi Tribune in Virginia. Previously, she worked for the Las Cruces Sun-News in New Mexico and the Rapid City Journal in the Black Hills of South Dakota. She has been a reporter at the West Central Tribune for nearly 27 years.

Vanderwerf can be reached at email: or phone 320-214-4340
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