Originally published Aug. 9, 2020 by the Republican-American.

By Jason Levy

Think physical education class back in the day: sweat, contact sports, workouts that pump your lungs.

PE teachers are thinking about it, and what their classes will look like when students are back at school.

Mark Fowler, who teaches physical education at Eli J. Terry Middle School in Plymouth and is also the athletic director and boys basketball coach at Terryville High, said many aspects of phys ed still are being sorted out.

Photo by John McKenna Republican-American

“We need a little more time to dig into it as a school district, and as a group of PE people we have to look at it and see what we can and can’t do a little more specifically,” Fowler said on July 30. “As we get closer to the start of school, we will have a better idea.”

High-contact and competitive team sports and activities involving a lot of shared equipment will likely be dropped in favor of low-contact options that emphasize individual fitness and require minimal shared equipment, all ideally taking place outdoors.

Ryan Kinne, a physical education teacher at Long River Middle School in Prospect teacher and the Naugatuck High School boy’s soccer coach, said he has gone over different types of exercises with his students over Google Meets during the spring. What his gym classes will look like is an ongoing discussion, he said.

“From what we expect the protocols to be in place, it appears that it looks like it is going to be a more fitness-based (approach),” Kinne said. “Focus on the FITT (Frequency, Intensity, Time, and Type) Principle, different types of fitness, kids’ heart rate, that sort of stuff and have them exercising. It is obviously important things for kids to learn, important pieces of information for them to know throughout their life.”

Litchfield High School is in position to offer outdoor phys ed classes that don’t require sharing equipment. Kyle Weaver, who teaches phys ed and serves as the athletic director and baseball coach, said the school in recent years has phased out team sport offerings in favor of activities like camping, fishing and orienteering, which requires using navigational skills over diverse terrain. Students will not be required to change clothes for gym class and will avoid using locker rooms, he said.

Naugatuck boys soccer coach Ryan Kinne, center, talks with his team during practice Saturday at Naugatuck High. Joe Palladino Republican-American
“We wanted to offer more noninvasive, non-team ‘ra-ra-ra’ type activities where it wasn’t based on score, it was based technique and getting kids more exposed to outside, individual sports,” Weaver said. “It is more hands-on learning those types of skills. I see this being more outdoor rec type of activities where we can socially distance, yet still get our target curriculum completed.”

Maintaining physical health and being appropriately educated on the importance of being active and healthy is taking on extra importance as the state and country are still dealing with the COVID-19 pandemic, the side effect of being stuck inside for much of the past several months. Weaver believes physical education can play the biggest role in the recovery.

“People are just not meant to stay inside. Personally I am older now, but I found myself running, walking, hiking and getting out more just to get away from certain stresses in life,” he said. “I think that having the kids back together is going to be huge. Offering them an outlet to release those stresses that happen in adolescence is going to have a huge factor for them mentally. We want them to learn the curriculum, but want them to be sound-of-mind people as well.”

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