I am writing in response to the recent article entitled “Large Gym Classes Upset Fourth-Graders, Parents,” [27east.com, posted November 19]. I feel that the article did not address all the concerns of the parents, myself included.
I think the most important point is that crowding causes less time for physical activity. If the students need to wait their turn, they are going to get less physical activity time. In a 45-minute class, they may only get 20 minutes.
In 2005, our district made the decision to shorten the lunch recess time to accommodate the schedule. This decision decreased recess time from 30 minutes to 22 minutes. Shave off a few minutes, before and after, for the children to line up and walk to and from the playground, and now they are left with 15 to 18 minutes of exercise. What message is this sending our elementary school children?
The district needs to address that these children, along with the entire elementary school, are not getting adequate time for physical activity. We have well qualified physical education teachers. Their lessons are fun and exciting. But planning and carrying out a lesson for 45 students is a lot different than 30 students. This amount of students also present more issues in terms of cooperation, getting along and keeping the kids focused.
It should also be noted that in 2006, when there were five sections of students in the fifth grade, there was no tripling of class size. The school spent $6,000 to find a solution. Is it because 45 kids can physically fit in the gym that it is not deemed important enough? What message is this sending our children? Exercise is not important?
By limiting their physical activity, our children don’t have a few minutes of downtime, to be children and unwind. We are constantly pushing them to perform, to do well on standardized tests and to get good grades. Why can’t we encourage their development as whole, growing children? Why can’t we make daily exercise important? Our children need to be taught the value of daily exercise. It is imperative to promote daily exercise to children to help alleviate stress, prevent obesity and prevent chronic diseases such as diabetes, heart disease and cancer. The American Heart Association recommends that all children age 2 and older should participate in at least 30 minutes of enjoyable, moderate-intensity physical activity that is developmentally appropriate and varied, every day.
As a registered dietitian, I work with a variety of clients to educate them on a healthy diet and incorporating exercise into their daily lifestyle. Healthy habits, including exercise and a healthy diet, should be ingrained in us from an early age. The mission of our school, along with quality academics and advanced computer technology for our children, should include striving for healthy and active children. The money should be appropriated accordingly.
Just as we promote technology in the district—how we created a middle school exercise facility, how we made the HITE Field for team sports, and how there is currently a proposal for Astroturf for the high school—we should spend our resources on the elementary school to promote healthy eating and valuable daily adequate physical education for all children kindergarten through the fifth grade.
Why not create a physical education program for the elementary school that puts Westhampton Beach in the paper for proactively fighting childhood obesity, heart disease and diabetes? Let’s get the elementary school children moving, raise their heart rate and teach them the value of daily exercise.
PAULA MONTAGNAWesthampton Beach