This is an OP-ED by one of GOOD Morning Wilton‘s senior interns, Stephanie Scamuffo, WHS Class of 2015.
For most Wilton High School Warriors, being required to take a semester of physical education every year is a necessary evil. Wilton is notorious for being one of the few school districts in Fairfield County to require students to take gym throughout all four years of high school. But there’s more to it than just being forced to take phys ed for one semester each year.
A lot of it has to do with how phys ed is scheduled. Gym class rotates on a period of cycles. Each cycle lasts a little over three weeks to a month, and in these cycles, students alternate between two types of activities in gym–a fitness day and an activity day. The physical education teachers offer a variety of different fitness activities that range from speedball, to yoga, to cooperative games. Those take place on Monday, Wednesday and Friday. Tuesdays and Thursdays, on the other hand, are fitness days. On those days the students participate in rigorous physical exercise focusing on cardio, abs, flexibility, or a combination of them all.
Unique to the physical education department (and a few other elective courses, like culinary arts, for example), if a student misses a gym class, he doesn’t receive the four points that he could possibly earn for every class–one is for showing up to gym on time, the second is for being prepared (changing into gym clothes), and the last two points are for demonstrating genuine effort in all the activities. Each point lost equates to 1-out-of-100; miss a class and a 100 drops to 96. And gym class counts toward a GPA.
To make up any lost points, students must either use a free period to take another gym class or wait until the gym teachers offer a “make-up class,” which usually happens only at the end of the three week cycle. To earn back lost points, students must run eleven laps around the interior of the Zeoli Field House. If a student instead chooses to do a makeup in an actual gym class during a period different than his own, he must participate in that class and have a physical education teacher sign off confirming the makeup. If a student opts not to makeup the missed classes at all, they will forfeit the four points/per class, which stands to impact the final grade. Even worse? Without four credits of gym class (one per year), a student would fail to meet the high school’s requirement for graduation–so if a student doesn’t pass gym, they won’t be able to graduate.
I know what you’re thinking–it shouldn’t be tough for a student to meet that requirement. But actually, it is.
There are only two reasons that a student can be excused from having to make up a missed gym class: a death in the family or WHS team sporting events requiring athletes leave school. Other than that, students are held responsible to make up the points they lost.
While there are only two reasons that earn an excused, makeup-free absence, there are a wide variety of just-as-legitimate other reasons why students would miss a gym period–but they don’t excuse anyone from makeups. A very frequent problem (until recently) at the end of the year is when Advance Placement (AP) testing conflicts with a gym period. AP tests, overseen by the College Board, are administered at the same time and date for every school in the country. As a result, it’s highly likely that one AP test will conflict with a gym period, and many students feel as if they are penalized for taking these tests.
My fellow WHS senior, Elise Vocke, knows the difficulty of making up gym classes very well. She took four AP tests this year, three of which were scheduled in the morning–and therefore conflicted with her gym periods. Now that we’ve wrapped up AP testing, seniors have started their out-of-school internships, so it is very complicated for a senior like Elise to make up those gym days.
My very good friend and experienced AP test-taker, Isabella Palacpac, is a gifted cellist and wants to play professionally. To pursue music or theater in college, musicians must audition in person at wherever that school may be. Isabella mentions that, “As someone who misses a lot of school [to audition], it would be very helpful not to have to worry about gym days.” It’s the same situation students run into for all college visits in general.
Many students argue however, that to make up academic classwork, they only need to make up the work that gets graded, not the class time itself; for gym, it’s the actual time that they have to makeup. But admittedly, performance during gym class is the classwork that gets graded, so it’s understandable that students have to spend the time in gym to make up the missed work (and therefore maintain the grade).
Wilton High School seniors and executive board members Endy Perry, Cooper Pellaton and Geoffrey Keating have been lobbying administrators on behalf of students about eliminating the need for gym make-up days. The situation has been discussed in the Wilton High School Student Senate, where club leaders and sports teams’ captains gather and discuss ways to improve the school. For the first time it’s being considered as an issue that needs a second look.
As of the AP testing schedule of 2015, principal Bob O’Donnell made the decision that students whose AP tests conflicted with their gym periods were not responsible to make them up. They will not lose any points for their absence and will therefore not need to make up the classes. However, Joanne Lussier, a much-liked and respected gym teacher, said that this new policy fails to “hold students accountable” and that it is unfair to the “students who already put three (gym classes) in the bank” this year in order to keep their points.
Depending on how one feels about the situation, it is inarguable that the Wilton High School Class of 2015 Executive Board has made a long-lasting impact on the school and the students who attend.