PUSD policies place unreasonable requirements on OCIS-PE students

PUSD policies place unreasonable requirements on OCIS-PE students

Freshman year, I was extremely self-conscious of my writing and thought that I simply was not cut out for it. When faced with the decision of whether I wanted to join The Nexus, I realized that it would be a great opportunity for me to learn, and as my sophomore year progressed, I gained confidence as well as the drive to continue writing. My schedule did not account for the fact that I would be on The Nexus, so I had to make a decision: drop the class to finish my PE credits, or take OCIS-PE and continue writing.

I chose OCIS-PE.

PUSD designed the Off Campus Independent Study for Physical Education (OCIS-PE) program to, according to Board policy, “assist athletes with their training schedules by allowing the student to take their Physical Education class at their training facility, under the direct supervision of their coach.” To qualify for OCIS-PE, the student must be involved in a competitive program at the state, regional, or national level and include a minimum of 15 hours per week in their training schedules to “indicate that the applicant is a serious participant.” Moreover, their coach must be qualified in a variety of ways, from CPR/First Aid training to testing negative on a TB test.

Once accepted into the program, the athlete must adhere to his or her training schedule. Any negligence in doing so will result in a fail, as there are no letter grades for this class.

I understand why there are so many guidelines regarding the coaches; PUSD wants to make sure their students are learning in a safe environment. But what I cannot understand, is why so many hours are required, nor can I understand why there is no leeway in these hour requirements for illness or injuries.

The California State Education Code regarding independent study for physical education states that students must adhere to Education Code sections 51222, 51225.3, 51241, and 60800.

Education Code sections 51222 and 51225.3 require students from grades 7 to 12 to take at least 400 minutes of physical education every 10 school days for a minimum of two years. 51241 outlines causes for exemption, and 60800 necessitates that freshmen take the FITNESSGRAM tests, such as the mile run, push-up test, and the sit-and-reach.

According to Assistant Principal of Alternative Programs and Adult Education Patty Hurtt, the PUSD Board mandates that OCIS-PE students exercise for three hours per school day based on the requirements in the Education Code. However, the Education Code only calls for 40 minutes per school day.

In comparison, PUSD’s requirements seem excessive. Typical PE classes at Westview already exceed these requirements, running for an average of 80 minutes per school day. It must also be considered that these classes function at an easier difficulty, frequently offering “free days” where students choose the intensity of their workouts, if they exercise at all. On the other hand, OCIS-PE  is high in difficulty and takes the hour requirements several steps further by demanding 3 hours per day. There are no “free days;” there is only the practice schedule submitted to the district that students must adhere to.

Furthermore, PUSD doesn’t have any provisions for injury or illness that exempt students from the demanding 15-hour requirements. Education Code 51241 states that the governing body of the school district may provide a modified program with “one-half or less, of the work required of full-time pupils” in the cases of illness and injury, but OCIS-PE offers no such modifications.

Hurtt said that students that compete on high rankings such as the ones who are allowed to take OCIS-PE shouldn’t have a problem completing these hours and can easily make them up before the quarter ends, but this places further strain on the student’s future schedule. By forcing them to make up the hours they missed for an illness, the athletes must take on even more practices in a given week. Three hours of practice per day is already more than enough.

Last year around December, I injured myself for two weeks after I displaced the joint connecting my pelvis and tailbone. It caused severe pain when I danced, and ultimately forced me to sit out for an additional two weeks after it was repositioned. I was not allowed to slouch, sit in my hips, jump, run, or do anything that could possibly jostle the joint back out of place. Luckily, I was not taking OCIS-PE at the time, or else I would have failed the class despite the fact that I had over 90 hours devoted to rehearsals and practices for my performances from the month before alone.

Had I been taking OCIS-PE, I would have had to make up 60 hours before the semester ended in January, giving me only a couple of weeks. For an athlete returning from injury, who is supposed to take it slow, who is trying to stay safe and aware of their body’s limits, to try to squeeze into two weeks  an additional 60 hours alongside the 15 hour-per-week requirements, it would have made things impossible.

If I spent all my time exercising and passed the class, I would not have had any time for any of my other classes. Given how excessively demanding this requirement for 15 hours per week is, it’s time for the Board to revisit the policy and consider easing the burden this standard places on some the district’s most committed and best athletes. After all, the goal of physical education is to teach and promote a healthy and active lifestyle, something that OCIS students already value. By lowering the hour requirement, the Board would not violate the Education Code. OCIS-PE was designed to ease our schedules, not complicate them. PUSD’s excessive hour requirements, combined with the fact that there is no leniency in unavoidable circumstances such as illness and injury, only make things harder for students and serves to discourage them from even taking it at all.

If PUSD really wanted to “assist athletes with their training schedules,” they would provide more realistic standards in their OCIS program instead of the current taxing requirements that place unnecessary stress on students.