Created by students for students, new physical education waiver provides more flexibility
CASTLE ROCK - As Douglas County School District (DCSD) students settle into the new school year, a new option has become available to them thanks to efforts by their peers.
DCSD’s Board of Education has approved a formal Physical Education (PE) waiver policy for students, effective for the 2016-17 school year. The policy was researched, assembled and proposed by members of the 2015-2016 Student Advisory Group (SAG).
SAG is a committee of the Board of Education composed of sophomores, juniors and seniors from each Douglas County School District high school. Guided by Derek Chaney, DCSD’s Director of Activities, Athletics and Student Leadership, SAG works directly with the Superintendent and district administrators. It provides an opportunity for district personnel to have a focus group of high school students. It also affords the students an avenue to express what they think is exceptional regarding their education, along with what could be improved, ultimately to advance communication between district staff, the Board of Education and students.
The PE waiver represents one of the major projects that the SAG worked on last year. They noticed that some students wanted the ability to fit other classes in their schedule without being limited by DCSD’s mandatory 1.0 PE credit. SAG wanted to offer students as much flexibility as possible so that they were able to take classes that they needed or wanted to take instead.
“An example of this is a kid who is taking student government, orchestra or AP classes, but can’t fit in a PE credit and would prefer to take some of those other classes instead,” said Alec Greven, who is now in his second year as President of SAG. “We want to give kids those options and that flexibility in their schedule.”
The newly approved policy is optional for 10th, 11th and 12th grade students involved in a CHSAA sanctioned sport or activity; however, students in non-CHSAA activities, such as ice skating or rugby, can meet with their school principal or designee for exceptions.
“Principals are able to and have been granting exceptions and waivers,” Greven said. “These guidelines provide a general standard.”
PE waivers are available to all levels of athletes, not just varsity-level, but the season must be successfully completed.
“We don’t want this to be an exclusive, skill based thing, it’s more based on the effort of the students,” Greven said. “They have to regularly attend practice, regularly attend games and be in good standing.”
After thought and discussion, SAG determined it would not make the waiver available to 9th graders.
“We want to give 9th graders the ability to learn about their classes, have the opportunity to experience a high school schedule, experience high school classes, and then make an informed decision as to whether a waiver is something that they want to pursue in the rest of their academic career,” Greven said.
PE waivers have been adopted in other school districts, and did exist in DCSD prior to this new policy, though it hasn’t been commonly known.
“Students didn’t know how to access it, they didn’t even know it existed,” said Greven.
SAG used the Adams 12 School District policy as a model when creating the new DCSD proposal. The proposal waives credit--it does not give credit--meaning students are still required to have 24 credits to graduate.
“Providing credit requires a lot more documentation and hurdles,” Greven said. “A waiver is something that still provides the benefit but can also be immediately used.”
As they were developing the proposal, students in SAG met with several district personnel, especially PE teachers, to ensure they were thinking about every detail and challenge.
“We met with several physical education teachers to go over what their concerns were and what they wanted out of the policy. One important factor was that the student should replace PE with a sport. So they wouldn’t get to waive it just because they wanted to, and they are still being physically active,” Greven said. “The thing is sometimes students find it repetitive, and when they are taking it as an extracurricular activity they don’t necessarily want that to fill their time at school when they could be using that time in other areas.”
SAG members also heard feedback from PE teachers that there is a difference between physical education and physical activity. But Greven believes this new policy will affect a small minority of students.
“Most of the athletes and people who play sports enjoy taking PE classes as their elective. This would primarily be for that small segment of students who can’t fit it into their schedule or would prefer to take another class,” he said.
Students wishing to pursue a PE waiver must complete an application form, which must include signatures by a parent, coach and counselor before it is submitted to the school principal or designee for approval. One season of a sport will waive half of one PE credit. Students cannot use a waiver for an off period. It must be replaced with a class.