We Want Waivers!


Cassandra Bundrick

PE teacher, Mr. Levenseller, watches as his class runs.

Noelle Misterek, Reporter

Back in elementary school, PE was everyone’s favorite class. Kids would look forward to the hour of the day they could escape to play tag and throw colorful foam balls at each other. Perhaps high schools believed they could continue this love of physical activity, whilst sneakily trading dodgeball games for running laps. But lazy high schoolers weren’t happy, and every year a substantial amount of students try to opt out of required PE classes.

There are a variety of reasons why students are trying to skip out on PE. Some want to take academic or other elective classes and don’t have room in their schedules. Others are fed-up because they spend hours after school participating in sports, and are still required to spend an hour of their school day in the gymnasium learning the skills of badminton or other obscure sports.

“It (PE) sucks because I’m doing other things outside of school that are active”, says varsity track and cross country runner Madeleine Johnson. “I don’t see the point as to why we have to do it in school, if we are already doing more outside than I would be doing in PE class.”

Of course, there are quite a few students who attempt to opt out with no reason except they simply don’t feel like taking PE. The idea of a class on physical education was a good one, and definitely has had success in promoting health and getting students moving.

“With all the students sitting around on their phones and on social media, nobody moves anymore. Now that you don’t go out for recess, and half the kids don’t exercise on their own, they’ve got to get it somewhere,” says Peninsula PE teacher Melissa Miller.

The problem is, high school students don’t want to move more than they have to.

As school boards saw the growing irritation towards required PE, they have done a good job in expanding the types of classes offered. Peninsula High School offers everything from yoga and walking fitness to life guarding and weight training. But these additions didn’t subdue all the complaints.

PE should be a class that students look forward to as a refreshing break amidst their schedule packed-full of academic classes. For some students who decide to look on the bright side, it is.

“In the middle of the day when your brain is dying from all your other hard classes, PE is a great break because you get your body moving and get your blood flowing and let your brain just take a little relaxer,” said PHS junior Claudia Reutercrona.

But more often than not, students grumble with irritation about it just as much as their other classes. Refusal to get PE waived is no doubt one of the most common complaints heard from students shuffling out of the counseling offices. This isn’t the Peninsula counselors’ fault, they are just doing their job. The state and our school districts are the ones who made the requirement of PE, the counselors’ are the unfortunate ones who have to enforce it.

Although many students are angry that they are forced to take PE and would probably join together to protest it, there are valid reasons for the requirement. If anyone who didn’t have room in their schedule or were athletes outside of school were able to waive PE, that would eliminate probably half of the people from such classes. Half the students taking the classes would mean schools only need half the amount of physical education teachers. Easily accessible PE waivers would cause students to gain freedom at the expense of teachers losing their jobs.

The amount of PE credits required at Peninsula has actually decreased in recent years. Students used to have completed two full credits, or four semesters, of physical education to graduation. This was recently reduced to only one and a half credits, so students only have to take the mandatory freshmen PE and swim courses plus one more semester of any athletic course throughout their remaining three years.

This was a good effort to compromise, but it hardly stemmed students’ flow complaints and requests to waive the one extra semester. The adjustment also made PE teachers unhappy.

“Honestly I was disappointed that our district took away a semester of PE,” says Miller. “Now it’s all cram-packed into a short amount of time, so it’s less fun stuff which we need to hook the kids into the other stuff. They need to see that exercise and activity can be fun.”
There’s no way to reach an agreement on physical education requirements that will satisfy both the students and the teachers. Although a great number of students at Peninsula would like to have to ability to waive at least one semester of PE, the best and easiest thing for the school is to leave the system how it is.