Originally published April 26, 2019 in The Leader.

By James Post

Efforts to bring the Corning-Painted Post School District in line with state standards for elementary physical education will likely require some juggling of schedules, creativity and additional staff — and may also require a five minute longer school day.

The leaders of committees tasked with putting together a solution presented a proposal to the school board Wednesday for a one-year pilot program.

“This Physical Education problem that we have is a monster,” Superintendent Michael Ginalski told the board. “It was a very tough assignment.”

The district was subject to a state audit in the 2016-17 school year that concluded elementary students weren’t getting enough physical education.

The state Department of Education requires that Kindergarten through third-grade students receive P.E. five times a week, for a total of two hours. Fourth-and fifth-grade students are supposed to have P.E. three times a week, also for a total of two hours.

The audit found the district’s elementary schools fell short of the standards, both in terms of time spent active and number of classes per week.

“While the audit was a surprise, the findings were not,” Superintendent Michael Ginalski told The Leader when the audit was released last year. “I do not believe the district has ever been compliant.”

State requirements for curriculum and testing have made meeting the P.E. standards more difficult, he noted.

The team working on making changes necessary to meet the standards looked at a number of different options, and eventually went with a hybrid of all of them.

Despite scheduling shifts and the addition of staff, one thing they couldn’t get around is a proposed change of dismissal time at the elementary schools, from 2:45 p.m. to 2:50 p.m.

“We looked extensively at how we could do it without impacting dismissal,” said Bill Pierce, assistant superintendent for facilities operations. “We couldn’t find a way.”

He noted that for elementary schools outside the city, Transportation Director Larry Eccleston has said the later dismissal would not be a problem for busing.

One of the key elements of the pilot plan is organized movement activities in the classroom. To ensure meeting state requirements for documenting that time, it will become a building-wide activity period, listed on the master schedule.

The plan also calls for adding one elementary P.E. teacher and transferring another from the secondary level. Those changes are included in the budget that’s up for vote May 21.

Assistant Superintendent for Elementary Instruction Kerry Elsasser noted that despite the shuffling required, this isn’t a haphazard move to meet the minimum state requirements.

“We wanted a quality plan,” Elsasser told the board. “That’s why adding Physical Education staff was really important.”

Under the proposal, Kindergarten through second-grade students will have two 35-minute P.E. classes per week, plus five 10-minute in-class activity periods each week. Third-graders will have two 40-minute P.E. classes per week plus four 10-minute activity sessions. And fourth-and fifth-graders will have three 40-minute P.E. classes per week, which meets the state standards.

Elsasser noted that recess doesn’t count as physical activity under state rules.

District officials acknowledged that they don’t expect the plan to be perfect, and still have elements to work out, such as how to handle multi-grade classrooms for special education.

The pilot program for next year, if approved, would include continued committee meetings, meeting with stakeholders and ongoing review of how to make improvements.

The school board will vote on the plan at its May 22 regular meeting.

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