A good decision made at a bad time

Arundel schedules: State board should give county system time to make room for gym classes.

November 09, 2001

FOR ABOUT 30 YEARS, nobody seemed to care that Anne Arundel County's public schools were cheating middle school students out of gym classes.

It's amazing that so many superintendents have let that travesty happen for so long, including the current chief, Carol S. Parham.

But a decision by the Maryland State Board of Education to impose a state physical education requirement for middle school students halfway through the school year would not create a solution. Instead, it would incite another travesty.

Anne Arundel's public schools have always allowed middle school students to take PE as an elective, but failed to require students to take gym.

The state board was right to order the PE requirement. But its decision came Sept. 15, two weeks after the school year began. And its ruling orders the Anne Arundel school system to correct the problem in February - halfway through the school year.

That was a mistake. The system just isn't flexible enough to handle a drastic midcourse correction like that - one that would force administrators to squeeze an extra course into an already confined day.

Middle school principals have suggested that a midyear scheduling change would cause chaos.

The Anne Arundel middle school problem can be fixed only by expanding the school day. A committee of administrators, parents, students and teachers proposes that the school day be lengthened by 30 minutes - at the beginning of the next school year. That's when teachers, bus schedules and student schedules are set.

Making a midyear adjustment takes time and energy from scheduling for a longer school day, a move that will involve confronting union issues and changing elementary school hours to accommodate transportation changes.

Anne Arundel school board members are asking the state board to tolerate a three-decade-old mistake for another few months so they can fix the problem right, instead of fixing it fast.

The state board should grant their request when it meets Dec. 4.

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