CPS' new physical education policy aims to get kids moving

September 5, 2013 2:57:39 PM PDT
Putting Chicago Public School students in motion is the goal of a new pilot program aimed at improving the fitness of the city's young people.

Thirty minutes of physical education, 20 minutes of recess and yes, 10 minutes of exercise in the classroom. Students at Jacob Beidler Elementary are on the move 60 minutes a day. This West Side school is one of 36 Chicago Public Schools that are part of a pilot program to incorporate exercise into the daily routine.

"This is a huge cultural shift for schools to really recognize the importance of physically activity, not just for student health, but for their academic performance," said Annie Lionberger, Chicago Public Schools.

CPS says studies show physical activity, especially some exercise in the classroom, helps students focus and do better. While science teacher Syretta Epps hasn't noticed the results yet, she says her students jumped at the chance to get up and move.

"We did jumping jacks. They were so surprised they got to do jumping jacks in class, you should have seen the faces," said Syretta Epps, science teacher.

Principal Charles Anderson says the hardest part of the new program was getting his staff on board. But after two weeks, he says teachers are getting used to it.

Part of the teachers we did have a struggle, but it became more of mindset for them, get them involved different from extra activities," said Charles Anderson, principal, Jason Beidler Elementary School.

During the next five years, CPS plans to roll out 60 minutes of daily physical activity at every CPS elementary school. Mindful of budget cuts and space limitations at certain schools, CPS recognizes it must tailor the program to fit each school.

"You don't need a whole lot of room to do quality physical education, you can use a hallway. So we're working closely with schools to find out how we can adapt the program to make it work," said Lionberger.

Instead of a one-size-fits-all policy, CPS is hoping to learn from the pilot schools successes and failures before implementing the 60 minutes of exercise at all elementary schools. However, that is not the case for high schools. Next year, every high school must provide daily P.E. for all students.


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