Finding time for phys ed

Published 11:16 pm Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Some school districts around the state are scrambling to fit more physical education into their lower grades after a new state law was passed this winter.

The new law requires that students in grades kindergarten through eight participate in a physical education program of at least 150 minutes per week, not including half-day kindergarten programs.

However, Suffolk Public Schools doesn’t need to worry about the new regulation. The local school district’s wellness policy already requires more than 150 minutes per week.

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Currently, elementary grades participate in at least 90 minutes of physical education per week, along with at least 15 minutes of recess per day. That adds up to 165 minutes — and that doesn’t even include the Healthy Habits curriculum, which emphasizes movement in the classroom.

“We are all right already,” said Kevin Alston, assistant superintendent for administrative services. “If you really look at all the activity, we’re doing more than the 150 minutes.”

In addition to physical education and recess, elementary students are going through the Healthy Habits curriculum, which incorporates movement into core subjects that traditionally were taught to students sitting in desks.

“You actually learn better from activities where you’re up out of your seat doing things than activities where you’re sitting in your chair,” Alston said.

For example, students in a math class might do jumping jacks for two minutes and then divide by two to see how many they did per minute.

“You’re actually getting kids doing activities where they get some movement or exercise in that activity,” Alston said.

Teachers in the school system received training on the Healthy Habits program through grants from Obici Healthcare Foundation and WHRO. The lessons are matched with state Standards of Learning, Alston said.

He added the school system will be reviewing its wellness policy this summer to ensure it lines up with the new state law, passed by the General Assembly in its most recent session.

“Maybe we need to clarify it so that people don’t misinterpret it,” he said. “We’ll probably look at our wellness policy and amend that to make sure the policy shows how they get their 150 minutes per day.”

The full wellness policy may be viewed online by going to the division’s website,, then clicking on “Departments” to the left, then on “Food Services,” then on “Wellness Policy” to the left.