Originally published Dec. 5, 2020 in the Red Rock News.
By Michael Dixon
With social distancing continuing to be a necessity, students and teachers at Sedona Red Rock High School are continuing to adapt. The physical education classes are no exception.
When thinking of PE classes, memories of sports and other physical activities — often in close contact with other students — will generally come to mind. In the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, though, such activities are not plausible. But while SRRHS PE teacher Alex Bybee has had to tweak some of her lessons, she and her students are finding ways to make it work.
“It’s actually not as challenging as it feels like it would be,” Bybee said, “We’re completely out of the weight room, which was a challenge in the beginning because it’s what I thought I’d be teaching. But we’ve done a mini badminton unit. Even with several people on a single badminton court, the class sizes are still at a point where distance can be maintained.”
Bybee said that her classes have also done more traditional school sports, like softball, and even then, social distancing is pretty well built into the sport — the only challenge came about when students playing games were on base.
Of course, social distancing isn’t the only necessity unique to the pandemic. Students are also wearing masks while participating in their physical activities. That is something that students are continuing to get used to.
“It’s definitely a lot harder,” junior Donovin Goniwiecha said. “I have to work in my mask and I can get pretty exhausted then, too. It’s not as easy to breathe. Especially when trying to catch your breath, you definitely have to take an extra minute.”
Senior Eric Schrader acknowledged the challenges of wearing masks, as well, but also noted that for him, it’s better than the alternative.
“At least we still get to work out,” Schrader said. “It’s not my favorite thing on the planet. But it’s either that or having a health class. And I’d much rather do PE than have a health class.”
Even with some of their classmates learning in person, some students continue to do virtual learning. In an attempt to buy extra time for any potential COVID-19 symptoms to show, SRRHS went exclusively to online learning on Monday, Nov. 30, and Tuesday, Dec. 1. There is also the lingering possibility that SRRHS could return to online learning on more of a full-time basis later.
To accommodate that, Bybee is developing lesson plans involving activities that students can do alone, with one or two classmates or with family. Those plans include activities like hiking and backyard sports.
While adapting to COVID-19 restrictions is still a relatively new thing, Bybee does have experience in it. She was a student-teacher during the 2019-20 school year and is now in her first year as a full-time teacher. She feels that experience has helped ease the transition.
“I definitely credit that to having student-taught in that environment,” Bybee said. “Truthfully, this is all I’ve really done. I kind of have an advantage because student teaching was completely online. I wouldn’t say I had a lot of time, but I had time to experiment with what would work and what wouldn’t with a mentor teacher before I got on my own .”
Bybee credits the school administration for working well with her on different plans that she’s brought them. She also credits the students for wearing masks and maintaining distance, respecting the fact that different students will certainly have different levels of comfort with being around people.
And while the activities are definitely unusual, the students are adjusting well to everything that’s been thrown their way.
“I don’t see much of a difference in stuff besides wearing a mask and social distancing,” freshman Alyla Brooks said. “It’s not too weird for me because I’ve never had PE in high school so I don’t know what it’s usually like. And it’s hard to do sports and stuff because we have so many people online. But otherwise, it’s fine. We’re just doing PE. We’re doing sports as much as we can. I think it’s still fun. There’s not much different that we can do.”