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Homestead athletes given option to substitute classes for gym

Pilot program allows 60 students to take classroom courses instead of phy ed

Dec. 19, 2012

Mequon - Beginning in the 2013-14 school year, 60 Mequon-Thiensville School District students will be able to substitute time in WIAA sanctioned sports for 0.5 physical education credits, opening up their schedules for an additional English, social studies, math or science class.

The School Board on Monday approved a pilot of the program, which complies with Wisconsin Act 105 and is meant to allow WIAA athletes an opportunity to get more core curriculum class in their schedules. Included in the pilot is the creation of "zero hour" gym classes, which will take place before and after school to allow other students an opportunity to fill out their school days with nongym classes.

Mequon-Thiensville joins the New Berlin and Greendale districts, who have also approved versions of the Act 105 program, and are ahead of several other districts who have opted to only go with "zero hour" classes.

The pilot was approved 4-2 by the School Board, with members Mary Cyrier and James Liska dissenting. Liska said the move would "create a multi-tier system for the haves and the have-nots."

He added that sports experience isn't a substitute for physical education courses, which are products of curriculum development and fundamentally academic.

"I like to be a lighthouse district, and I like to be first," Liska said, "but I'm not sure about this one."

Physical Education teacher and boy's track and field coach Daniel Benson similarly opposed the measure.

"We have spent our careers developing curriculum we believe is sound and cutting edge," Benson told the board. "We do not believe our coaching is equal to our teaching … I do not equate them."

Nevertheless, Superintendent Demond Means said a number of district parents have asked about the program and say it will help ease the burden of their children.

"We have an obligation to at least try the pilot to relieve those student athletes," Means said. "I have confidence in our coaches as well as our student athletes … I think there's merit to see if (sports participation) is meeting (academic) standards."

According to Curriculum Director Eric Dimmitt, the district will limit the pilot of the Act 105 program to 60 students in order to minimize staffing and enrollment disruption, and ultimately the "zero hour" gym classes will remain in the curriculum only if enrollment necessitates them.

"I want to open the faucet slowly and see where this goes," Dimmitt said.

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