In what district officials are calling one of the most difficult budget years, the South Colonie Central School District has included in their adopted 2009-2010 budget plans to end the health program in grades one through four.
The issue was widely discussed at the district's budget hearing Tuesday, May 5, at Saddlewood Elementary School. At that hearing Donna Thompson, a teacher at Roessleville Elementary School, stressed the need to continue addressing the topics covered in elementary-level health classes.
Thompson said she was afraid that children will not be aware of many of the dangers in life if the program is eliminated. She was also concerned that special elementary wellness programs, such as the Walking to Peak Performance walking club will cease to exist as a result of the cut.
District officials said they are phasing out the elementary health program because they are being forced to increase time spent on physical education.
According to Supervisor of Physical Education and Athletics David Foust, the requirement is that students in kindergarten through third grade have physical education daily for 120 minutes per week.
Foust said the mandate has been around since the 1980s and that most school districts have ignored it until now.
The requirement has been there for some time, and districts throughout New York state have not met that mandate, and the emphasis has really come to light based on the health status of kids lately, said Foust.
The problem lies, Foust said, on where to come up with the time to increase physical education.
"Where do you capture those minutes?" he asked. "The student day is comprised of X amount of minutes. You still need to have instructional units being taught."
Foust said the district has worked hard to come up with a plan for the students to meet the requirements.