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Who's skipping gym?

Town, state at odds over what's required for Southbridge students

Southbridge school officials are upset over being cited by the state for violating the required structured learning time for gym classes. (click for larger version)
November 08, 2009
SOUTHBRIDGE — Late last month, Superintendent Dale Hanley and School Committee members expressed their ire at some elements of this spring's state review of district programs. Among them was being cited for not requiring physical education for 11th and 12th graders.

At the time, members asked where the legal requirement came from, but nobody could quote it. It does exist — MGL Chapter 71, section 3, which states, "Physical education shall be taught as a required subject in all grades for all students in the public schools…."

A quick scan of some nearby schools, however, revealed that none of them actually require what that law seems to say. Among those were Tantasqua and Northbridge — both were also reviewed this year — and Shepherd Hill, last reviewed in 2005. None of them were cited for that issue, according to their reports at www.doe.mass.edu.

School Committee Chairman Jack Jovan said Southbridge has offered an advanced phys ed class for juniors and seniors "for at least two years," although he didn't know how many students take it. He said he didn't know why the state would cite Southbridge but not other schools doing essentially the same thing, other than speculating it might be "because of the status we're in."

"It would be a question this school committee has to further investigate and ask the state why we're under a different microscope," Jovan said. "If we're required to fix it, then those other districts should be, too."

For whatever reason, the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education did not see what Jovan sees. DESE found Southbridge to be in violation of the state's "structured learning time" requirements in this case. (It also cited the district for several other "partially implemented" things, most of which the district doesn't dispute.)

For more on this story, please read Monday's Southbridge Evening News.

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