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U-46 Board approves new PE course structure


By Seth Hancock
  The Board of Education in School District U-46 approved of new high school physical education (PE) courses that are expected to give students more flexibility and independence with a pilot year in 2019-2020 and full rollout in 2020-2021.
  The Independent PE 1 and 2 courses were approved along with several other proposals by 5-0 votes, board members Phil Costello and Veronica Noland were absent, at the Monday, March 11 special meeting. They were presented on March 4.
  Tracey Jakaitis, student wellness coordinator, said the PE courses are “a little bit, a lot a bit different from what we currently do in physical education” as it is mostly done online with students having to post 150 minutes of physical activity each week with heart rate monitors with teachers continuously monitoring and providing feedback. Students would meet with the teacher 10 to 12 times a semester during 0 hour, before school, while students would still have to take state mandated fitness tests.
  One of the goals of the courses according to the district is to provide students an option if they did not receive a requested PE waiver. From 2013 to 2016, the district has granted 2,298 waivers to students who needed to take a course for a college entrance requirement and 331 medical exemptions.
  The total expected cost for the courses is $146,184, $18,848 in the pilot year and $127,356 for full rollout, with a $600 annual cost for licenses and a $15 fee per student who takes the course. The cost includes the purchase of 125 heart rate monitors for the pilot year and 900 for full implementation as well as professional development in for three teachers for the pilot and 18 teachers for full rollout.
  Board member Jeanette Ward asked: “Given that this is for somewhat independent study, might it reduce our costs for offering PE?”
  Trisha Shrode, director of curriculum and instruction, said “that’s a good question” but the answer would come with time. She said: “We’d have to monitor during this pilot phase. We’d be able to give you more data after this pilot year.”
  Board member Melissa Owens noted the “huge jump” in costs between the pilot year and full rollout which Jakaitis said it will be limited to only juniors in the pilot year and 50 total students at both Bartlett and Elgin high schools and 25 at the DREAM Academy, and they project 200 students at all five schools during full rollout. She said the district will be able to make adjustments based on demand.
  “I’ll be honest, I think this will be a very popular course,” said Jakaitis who added:  “I think what we have to do with this course, we have to initially limit it to rolling it into our juniors because if we open it up [to] juniors and seniors, we will have to purchase so many monitors and then it will drop down and then we will have too many monitors purchased and not enough students to take the courses.”
  Owens said she thought it was a “great” idea but was concerned with access for students who may not be able to meet with teachers during 0 hour. Jakaitis said they plan to possibly expand that to 9 hour, after school, as well as during first and eighth periods.
  Costello noted, prior to the vote, that the district’s plan to survey students to evaluate the program, but he asked what metrics would be used to see if students are getting healthier from it. He said: “I want to make sure that they still strive to figure out how this will play a role after high school.”
  “In this course, as with all our other courses, the health metric is going to be target heart rate,” Jakaitis said. “Are you able to reach a maintain a moderate to vigorous heart rate for 30 minutes.”
  Board member Sue Kerr, who said she “really love[s] this,” asked if the heart rate monitors are insured. Jakaitis said like textbooks, students would have to pay replacement costs for lost or damaged monitors.
  Ward said based on her daughters’ experiences and other students “some kids will not be able to get their heart rates up” with the current monitors in PE classes. She also asked about a recent elite gymnast who addressed the board because she was denied a PE waiver.
  Jakaitis said “the healthier you are the more challenging it is to get into a target heart rate zone” and the current monitors have a standard setting for an average student, but the monitors for these PE classes [are] “very individualized.” Regarding the gymnast, she said her case will be addressed under new PE waiver guidelines that will be developed.
  “I love the flexibility that this allows students, and I think that’s a fantastic idea,” Ward said.
  Costello had asked if the district had sought possible sponsors for the program that could help pay for the program such as Advocate Hospital in Elgin. He said: “I would just think that they would want their name behind this to say that they are promoting health at a young age and proliferating that throughout their populations.”
  The administration said they have not looked into sponsorships but Shrode said they have looked for grants, but no grants for this proposal were found.
  Also approved was a resolution allowing the sale of district owned land known as the Jacaranda Property in Bartlett which has a minimum sale price of $750,000. Jeff King, deputy superintendent of operations, said the district must go to auction first but can use an outside agency to sell if the auction doesn’t meet the minimum price.
  The district has sought to sell the property for several years, and King said U-46 worked with the Village of Bartlett for about a year to see what they wanted and another six to eight months to draw up a contract. He said there was interest “a couple years ago” but “not as of recently.”
  “We’ve finally come to a point where we all agree and here we are presenting it to you so we can move forward with an auction for the property,” King said.
  Approved was a $4.2 million expenditure (life safety and operations and maintenance funds) with CBA Morris, Inc. d/b/a Austin Electric, Inc. for clock, fire alarm and intercom system replacements at Elgin High School, Elgin’s Abbott Middle School and South Elgin’s Clinton and Willard elementary schools.
  Ward asked for an explanation on why it costs so much to which Sheila Downs, director of plant operations, said there’s “a lot of electrical wiring, it’s extremely time intensive then also this is not your standard intercom system.” Downs added, when asked by Kerr, that it meets Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) requirements but also the “district accepted” suggestions from its engineers that were not required under the ADA.
  Costello asked if similar proposals will come for other schools. Downs said: “As systems fail and need replacement, yes this will be the prototype that we would follow in those other locations going forward.”
  The board approved a $55,423 expenditure, to be paid for by the nation’s taxpayers through grant funds, split between Douglas Food Stores, Inc. ($32,858) and TriMark Marlinn ($22,565) for kitchen equipment replacement at Elgin’s Ellis Middle School. Also approved was a $46,382 contract renewal (education fund) with Workforce Software to update licenses.

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