Originally published Jan. 6, 2020 by the Le Mars Daily Sentinel.

By Beverly Van Buskirk

Remember the days of Monday-Wednesday every other Friday physical education classes in high school?

Le Mars Community High School is taking a new approach to that, and in the process, getting students more active.

At the Dec. 9 school board meeting, High School Principal Dr. Mark Iverson asked the board to approve the renewal of the 2020-21 Iowa Department of Education Physical Education Wavier.

The district is using the waiver for the first time this academic year and are finding it a good fit.

Iverson explained the Department of Education requires physical education for graduation, which is counted as one-eighth of a unit.

The high school had two full-time P.E. instructors until the retirement of Deb Richarz at the end of the 2017-18 school year.

“As a result of her retirement, we had to absorb some of those sections that she taught,” Iverson said.

That left Gabe Tardive as the only full-time high school P.E. instructor. While Caleb Van Otterloo, middle school P.E. teacher, Terry Fitzgerald, high school social studies teacher, and Kelly Bork, high school health teacher, filled in for some class periods, but that took away from their academic areas.

It also led to larger P.E. classes, with as many as 45 to 50 students in a class period.

“With that large of classes, there are not a lot of team sports you can have without students standing around,” Iverson said. “The goal is to keep the students moving.”

With the waiver, the district offers high school P.E. classes on a trimester basis, each trimester lasting 12 weeks with the P.E. class meeting every day.

It allows for 24 sections rather than the 16 sections that were offered under the every other day schedule.

“By doing this, students actually get way more hours than what the state requires for graduation,” Iverson said.

“The state did approve our request last year, and I do not see why they would not approve it again,” he added.

Now Tardive is still full-time, with Bork taking three class periods and David Den Herder teaching one class period.

All the P.E. classes are offered during the regular school day.

The trimester system also fits well with the freshman curriculum of careers class and allows students grades 10-12 an opportunity to pick up an additional academic class during the semester if they wish.

“It opens the opportunity for more class choices, too,” Iverson said.

Iverson said another advantage is the students know PE is every day, and don’t have to worry about not having gym clothes for every other Friday.

The classes focus on team sports, strength activities (circuit conditioning), and leisure activities.

When asked about leisure activities, Iverson said it includes such things as cornhole, nine-up (a variation of the old four-square), and frisbee golf to name a few.

Superintendent Dr. Steve Webner added, “It has worked well and I recommend the board approve the renewal of that waiver and we will get that submitted to the Iowa Department of Education.”

Board members unanimously approved the request.

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