Originally published March 12, 2018 in the Sentinel.

By Joseph Cress

As of mid-January, physical education class has changed for Carlisle High School students.

Half the time they spend in each physical education course will now involve the pursuit of an individualized fitness plan for self-improvement.

The change was made possible by the recent development of separate fitness centers in the Swartz and McGowan buildings that now give every student access to cardio and weight training equipment.

The Swartz Fitness Center was the result of an expansion of that building’s weight room that more than doubled its floor space. That work was coordinated with a project to remodel the much smaller McGowan weight room into a fitness center. Both became operational in January.

fitness centers

Egan Noel benches as Sam Kulp spots at the Swartz Fitness Center at Carlisle High School. Photo by Michael Bupp.

Carlisle Area School District is trying to get away from the term “weight room” because it implies exclusive use by student athletes when the centers are open to all students, said Karen Quinn, director of curriculum and instruction.

Fitness centers have operated for years at the Lamberton and Wilson middle schools after those buildings underwent an extensive renovation and expansion project. Meanwhile, revisions were made to the health and physical education curriculum to allow for a 50 percent fitness component in grades 6-12, Quinn said.

While the middle schools had the facilities to implement the change right away, the high school had to wait until work was done to convert and reclassify its weight rooms into fitness centers. As a result, some middle school students entered the high school without a fitness center for their individualized fitness plans.

Under the curriculum, a teacher works with each student to develop a fitness plan suitable to their needs, abilities and goals, said George Null, program chair of the health and physical education department. Testing is done in the fall and spring to track the progress of each student.

“Teachers facilitate the plan by reviewing it, seeing where the gains are and offering suggestions on how to improve,” said Null, who is also the district athletic director. The idea was to start the fitness component in the sixth grade, carry it over in the seventh and eighth grade and eventually work it into the high school when the facilities come online.

But prior to mid-January, there were no fitness centers, so the high school lacked a fitness focus, Null said. “We did components of fitness, but we could not go all-out personal with individualized plans for kids.

“We did circuits,” he said. “But it was never something we could sustain over time.”

Now high school students have the ability to put together a prescribed program with measurable and obtainable goals.

Carlisle High School students are required to take a physical education course all four years, Quinn said. Each course is offered two days a week during a five-day cycle. The goal for the district is to divide up each section so that 50 percent of the students at any one time are rotated through the fitness centers.

Most classes for freshmen and sophomores are held in the Swartz building while most classes for juniors and seniors are held in the McGowan building. The Swartz Fitness Center is two-thirds larger than the McGowan Fitness Center because the McGowan center was limited by the physical footprint of that portion of the high school, Null said.

As a result, some of the larger physical education classes in McGowan would be unable to rotate 50 percent of the students into the fitness center at any one time, Null said. But he was confident the district could meet the goal of having 50 percent of their time spent in pursuit of an individualized fitness plan.

“Where we can, we will make it happen,” said Null, adding it may require the teachers to use creativity to make sure half the high school physical education experience involves some form of personal fitness.

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