Physical education stock photo

The physical education class exemption that Scarsdale High School sophomores, juniors and seniors who join an interscholastic athletic team are eligible for will return next week. Physical education coordinator Ray Pappalardi said the testing requirement has been waived for the fourth quarter and spring season, which begins Monday, April 19, and the district will reexamine its policy going forward.

Pappalardi said that in the spring of 2019, when fall sports were last played, 280 students received the exemption in the fourth quarter. That not only gives student-athletes who are often putting in two or more hours toward athletics at least five days a week after school the chance to catch up on rest or their studies, but also cuts down the size of the PE classes.

Physical education teachers typically do fitness testing for the following school year in the spring. In 2020, schools shut down just as the spring season was about to get underway, and students did not return to in-person learning until September in a limited capacity. Then with sports seasons being approved with short notice for fall, winter and the newly created fall 2, which wraps up next week in an overlap with the start of spring, there was no PE exemption for the classes which have been once a week on average for SHS students.

With school returning full time and a more normal schedule, parents and student-athletes were hoping the exemption would be part of the reopening plan.

“I think right now it’s a very stressful time for teachers, for kids, for families, and we don’t need to add any further stress into the system,” Pappalardi said. “That’s how we landed where we landed and how we’re going to proceed from now until the end of the school year and how we’d like to proceed through next school year. A lot of this stuff, even though it will be moving closer to normal, will still not be normal next year.

“For the short term for next year we’ll figure out how we will reimplement the testing and, in the long term, we’re going to reexamine the requirements and go from there. I’m not sure how it’s going to pan out. I think there are a lot of different ideas right now long term, but we’re looking for ways to provide credit for interscholastic competition without the burden that’s associated with it.”

According to the New York State Department of Education policies on PE, “If permitted by the Superintendent, students in grades 10-12 may receive credit toward high school graduation for participation in interscholastic athletics that is equivalent to physical education. In addition to other requirements, credit will be contingent on demonstrated content knowledge, health-related fitness, with a focus on cardio respiratory fitness and competence in lifetime sports. The Superintendent shall see that staff develops standards for fitness and competence.”

Of course, that guideline leaves plenty of room for interpretation, which is why Pappalardi and the administration were allowed to make the change during a meeting on Thursday afternoon, April 8. The PE teachers would not have enough time to administer the evaluations.

According to an email Pappalardi sent to parents this week, the exemptions will begin Friday, April 23, after coaches submit rosters to the athletic department for any student who makes a team and submits the proper application form.

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