Originally created 03/09/06

Physical education rules a factor in school budget



AIKEN - Corine Esposito said new legislation that increases the amount of time pupils spend in physical education classes is positive - but it also poses a test.

"(You're) just wondering how you're going to get to see all the kids during the week," said Ms. Esposito, who teaches physical education to kindergarten through fifth-grade at Hammond Hill Elementary School. "If there was another PE teacher, it wouldn't be quite as challenging."

The availability of funding to hire more teachers such as Ms. Esposito so the district can meet new state physical education directives for the 2006-07 academic year will be just one area of discussion as the Aiken County school board begins crafting a new district budget this month.

The new legislation, the South Carolina Student Health and Fitness Act of 2005, will require 60 minutes of physical education instruction and an additional 90 minutes of physical activity outside class each week for pupils in kindergarten through fifth grade, according to Lynn Hammond, the director of South Carolina Healthy Schools at the state Department of Education.

Frank G. Roberson, associate superintendent of instruction for Aiken County, said current district regulations require physical education instruction but no specific amount of instructional time is stipulated.

Heidi Ecker, the executive director for the National Coalition for Promoting Physical Activity, said the act's new guidelines will be positive for pupils. She said that a fitness and student academic study conducted by the California Department of Education found a positive correlation between exercise and academic achievement.

"We think the more that our youth will be engaged in physical activity the better the health outcomes, the better that they'll feel about themselves and the better they'll be equipped to be educated," Ms. Ecker said.

Dr. Roberson said the district awaits word on whether state funding will be made available to hire teachers so that the district can comply with the act.

"It's possible that we may not be able to carry out that particular provision," said Dr. Roberson, who added that the district would not be penalized by the state.

Funding for instruction will be just one area of focus as the school board prepares to discuss the new budget outlook at a March 21 public meeting, according to John B. Bradley, school board chairman.

"There are any number of money decisions that have to be made by the Legislature before we'll know what kind of revenue we'll have to build a budget with," Dr. Bradley said.

Reach Nathan Dickinson at (803) 648-1395, ext. 109 or nathan.dickinson@augustachronicle.com.