Originally created 05/12/00

Physical education rule altered



ATLANTA - The state Board of Education amended a rule Thursday, eliminating health and physical education requirements for middle school pupils. The move will likely spark debate at an upcoming public hearing.

"This isn't going to make anybody happy," said Davis Nelson, deputy state superintendent of Georgia schools. "But it's what's best in line with our education goals."

Schools would have to make health and physical education classes available to pupils in grades six through 12 under the amended rule, but classes wouldn't have time requirements. The change would allow middle school pupils to go three years without a health or physical education course if they chose.

Currently, pupils in kindergarten through eighth grade spend 30 minutes in health class and 60 minutes in P.E. class each week. Georgia graduation rules mandate high school students complete a half-year of both P.E. and health in order to receive a diploma.

The change would still mandate that pupils in kindergarten through fifth grade receive 90 minutes of P.E. and health per week, but it would let administrators use the time at their discretion. For example, one elementary school could teach a 20-minute health course and use the remaining time for P.E., while another school might split the time equally between courses.

"I think it is much more important for us to be educating our kids in core classes," said Board of Education member Willou Smith of Sea Island.

Primary pupils now spend four hours a day in academic classes, and the rule amendment would extend the time to meet new requirements. Next fall, academic class time will lengthen by 30 minutes, and will stretch to five hours by fall 2002.

Officials said parents and teachers have sent hundreds of e-mails and letters about the proposed change.

The board will hold a public hearing on the issue May 22 at 1 p.m. A vote will be taken on the amended rule in June.

Reach Shannon Womble at (404) 589-8424.