Portland schools to undergo PE overhaul

PPS must comply with 2007 law

Students participate in physical education at Irvington School in Portland. (Portland Tribune)
Students participate in physical education at Irvington School in Portland. (Portland Tribune)

PORTLAND, Ore. (PORTLAND TRIBUNE) — Portland Public Schools is going to have a hard time complying with new legislation requiring access to physical education, necessitating large-scale revisions to the school day and fewer options for students.

“We have quite a challenge coming our way,” said Assistant Superintendent Antonio Lopez in an Oct. 23 meeting of the Teaching and Learning Committee, “and we’re trying to untangle what it means for us.”

Lopez laid out a 2017-18 proposed schedule that would incorporate the required 150 minutes per week in K-5 and 225 minutes per week for grades 6-8 in the 2017-18 school year.

Middle grade students in dual-language programs will essentially no longer get an elective class — their two available spots outside of the core curriculum will be taken by their language and the newly mandatory PE. Middle schoolers currently get at least one elective period to take courses like band or AVID college prep.

In 2017, Lopez said, “all that is going to change. PE will be one that all people will take whether they like it or not.”

The district will also have to dramatically ramp up its PE staffing in the next year, from 40 teachers to an estimated 125.

“Are there enough PE teachers out there to hire?” Lopez said, adding that the other big problem in the district will be finding enough unused space. House Bill 3141 is a big unfunded mandate, Lopez said.

That said, the bill — now ORS 329.496 — was passed in 2007, giving districts 10 years to prepare. But with a recession necessitating deep cuts, a 2013 report from the Oregon Public Health Division said districts across the state actually cut PE, rather than ramping up.

The administration is looking to switch to a seven-period day to make the math work. But board members also questioned some of the priorities of the current school day, including the revised plan that has fewer minutes in the day than other districts.

“We know that our students are behind one full school year (in instructional time) compared to our neighbors across the bridge,” said board committee chair Julie Esparza Brown.

The Portland Tribune is a KOIN media partner.