Originally published July 31, 2020 by ABC Action News Tampa Bay.

By Mary O'Connell

It's often a period kids look forward to most in school: gym class. As students head back to class next month, physical education classes will see changes for face-to-face students and eLearners due to the COVID-19 crisis.

Kristina Garcia’s active kids have already seen a difference after one of her daughter’s dance classes started taping squares on the ground to socially distance kids. Garcia, the president of the Pinellas County Council PTA, also remembers the changes for PE teachers rounding out the end of the spring semester online.

“The ones who still had PE left to finish, the coaches would actually assign things for them to do,” said Garcia. “They had to do like a calendar at the beginning of the week with 'these are the things you’re going to do Monday through Friday,' and then they would go back on Friday and do a little write-up about what they had done.”

Kelley Griffin is an elementary school PE teacher in Polk County. Just weeks away from the start of the new school year, she’s preparing for if her students go back in-person or online. If face-to-face, she says it will come down to what guidelines they have to meet for safety protocols.

“In distance learning, we’ll be focusing more on movement and skills, the skill sets in that, as opposed to sports,” said Griffin. “We’re looking at that lifetime fitness, health-type of activities so that we’ll be able to give those lifetime skills to the families and to the children.”

Griffin says her lessons will also look at mental health while working on social and emotional learning. She also explained how she’s adapting lessons for eLearners to use what they have in the house for lessons and still learn the same skill sets.

“We know that not everybody is going to have a ball or a bat or a basket in their house, so we’ll do things like roll up a ball of socks and throw them into the laundry basket, shooting hoops that way,” said Griffin. “Trying to make it simple and as easily accessible for them to find something in their house to be able to just use as something as a piece of equipment.”

In its reopening plan, Pinellas County Schools says physical education classes will be outside as much as possible, with high-contact activities cut back or eliminated. They’ll also focus on individual skills and fitness, and masks won’t be needed when outside and when socially distanced.

Polk County Schools noted only non-contact sports will be used in its PE classes. Hillsborough County Schools included in its reopening plan classes like PE will follow social distancing while limiting collaborative activity and shared resources.

For parents who are trying to keep their kids active at home and while eLearning, Garcia has some advice.

“You just kind of have to adapt to whatever works within your home and your own schedule,” said Garcia.

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    Schools provide insight on what physical education classes will look like when students return to school, either in person or online.
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