No Decision on Cutting Half-Time PE Teacher

HAMPSTEAD – The Hampstead School Board debated whether to eliminate a half-time physical education position at the middle school, but reached no conclusion.
At the previous meeting, board member Jaye Dimando raised the question of whether a half-time physical teacher was needed.
This issue was also raised last year but the teacher was kept in place because scheduling had been completed and changing it at that point was said to be a potential disruption. Board member Jim Stewart said at the previous meeting that if the money spent on the half-time physical education teacher could be better spent elsewhere, he favored doing that but at the very least, wanted the administration to look into it.

At that time Assistant Superintendent Roxanne Wilson said it had been looked at and was found that eliminating the position could be made to work but would add pressure on staff and the schedule. She said the middle school currently has a stable, effective program and eliminating the position could create issues.
Wilson provided the board with the results of her research at its Tuesday, Nov. 26 meeting. The document was in the board members’ packets and they did not get time to review it prior to the meeting, causing Dimando to object to making any decision that evening.
Wilson’s impact statement offered a solution based on elimination of the half-time position.
Each school – Hampstead Middle and Hampstead Central – would retain one full-time physical education teacher having six teaching periods each day plus lunch, planning and duties assigned by the building principal. One Central PE teacher would be shared with HMS to cover the two classes the full-time PE teacher can’t cover. This would result in some scheduling changes, with the shared PE teacher starting at HMS and teaching two periods, then going to Central for four periods.
Wilson said the change would eliminate physical education for the half-day kindergarten students and reduce the full-day kindergarten PE to once a week rather than twice a week. Duties other than PE classes now undertaken by the PE teachers would also be lost, such as lunch duty, recess supervision, and curriculum integration help with Unified Arts Teams. Other school-wide duties would also be eliminated, such as special field trips and activities.
Wilson asked the board to approve continuing the half-time position for another year.
While the board did not make a decision, putting that off until the next meeting, members raised many objections to continuing with the half-time post.
Stewart pointed out that kindergarten kids run and jump and are active all day long, so the loss of the physical education period would not have any impact. He reiterated his question of whether the money for the position could be better spent on something else.
Dimando said she thinks kindergarten students would be better off spending the entire time – two and half hours for the half-day kids – with their teacher, rather than using time up by going to the gym and back.
She suggested that most of the impacts outlined by Wilson – helping with the Unified Arts events or field trips – would continue unchanged if the position were eliminated. She also said she would rather see the money spent adding a Spanish class for fourth graders or perhaps another language at the middle school.
During the discussion, it came to light that money had been added for the Ventures programs at both schools already, and several board members complained that they had not been made aware of this. Stewart said again that he had never intended to marry the reduction of the half-time PE position with increases for the Ventures program.
Board member Jason Cipriano said he was not convinced that decreasing the physical education services would be balanced by using that money elsewhere. He said the board needs to evaluate the Ventures program after a year before increasing funding or making any changes, and he thought the sacrifices were clear if the half- time physical education position were cut, while it was not clear that there would be any gains by making the reduction.
He recommended keeping the position for another year.
One parent, Rebecca Gagne, spoke at the meeting, objecting to the elimination of the PE program for kindergarten and quoting research that says this type of organized, structured physical activity is important for young children and a critical component for learning as well as for a healthy lifestyle and fitness.
The discussion will continue at the Dec. 10 board meeting.

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