Sam Fox ’11
Due to a limited budget, the School Committee implemented cuts in the Fitness & Health department. Upon Fitness & Health instructor Chris Molonea’s retirement at the end of this school year, the department’s five-semester requirement will be decreased to four semesters and Molonea’s position will not be replaced.
“We’re losing staffing because we lost programming,” said Fitness & Health director Joanne Grant. Because freshmen are required to take Intro to Fitness and sophomores are required to take Health Issues, there are now only two semesters for student to choose electives. “We will have fewer sections to take classes like Yoga, Dance, Power Up, Sports Education, Functional Core Training, Adventure, and Fitness Center Workout,” said Grant.
Fitness & Health instructor Kathleen Brophy feels that the cuts will limit opportunities for students to explore the Fitness & Health department. “Now that students only have two options for electives and the additional fact that we have one less teacher to teach these classes, I feel that the reduction is going to limit student choice,” she said.
One concern of Brophy’s is that students may have fewer required semesters of Fitness & Health, potentially creating a longer waiting period for students to complete the requirements. “Students were excited to get done quicker, but it might actually take longer because we have one less teacher,” she said. “Students may have to take gym senior year depending on their activity load. Also, freshmen and sophomores may have to wait because we’ll have to take care of seniors and juniors to make sure their requirements are fulfilled.”
A controversial aspect of the budget is that money for the Art department was also cut but then re-instated. The Fitness & Health cuts, however, were not re-instated. “We are trying to process and absorb what the impact will mean for the school and students,” said Brophy.
School Committee member Michael D’Ortenzio ’11 explained that initially cuts were made in the Art department, but the committee later realized that the proposed cuts were not feasible due to scheduling conflicts. They found that the availability of teachers did not coordinate with the block schedule in the proposed Art department changes. The committee voted to decrease the pay and size of the library staff instead.
D’Ortenzio explained, “The committee voted for cuts in Art and upon further inspection realized that logistically it could not work. Instead, they essentially cut $87,453 from the library by cutting the position of the director of libraries and changed the high school staff from two librarians to one librarian and one teaching assistant with less pay.”
He further explained that cuts were necessary in the school budget and superintendent Bella Wong provided two lists of programs to potentially cut. Because more money came in from the state than expected, the second list of budget cuts was not implemented. However, the School Committee voted on the cuts for Fitness & Health before these lists were released.
Despite the need for a cut in the school budget, some people feel that physical education is a priority. These people feel that the Race to Nowhere video about academic stress during adolescence recently released communicates a need for physical education in the high school community. “With what we know about students with high academic standards and rigor,” said Grant, “we should be increasing opportunities to combat some of the issues and topics raised in the Race to Nowhere video and add it to our fitness department. We’re about wellness, so don’t cut it, just make it better.”
According to Grant, “We need to empower students with something physical to get their minds in the right place to deal with the rest of their work. Physical education is an outlet.”
Molonea agrees with Grant and believes that physical education should be more valued than it currently seems to be. “In an era where all current research indicates exercise facilitates learning, the reduction of the physical education requirement is very disturbing,” she said.
According to members of the Fitness & Health department, the manner in which they were informed about the reduction was somewhat “curious”. “The first word anyone in the Fitness & Health department received that a vote was to be taken on the reduction came only hours before it actually occurred,” said Molonea.
D’Ortenzio explained some of the motives for cutting the budget. “Essentially, our Special Tuition Transportation and Inclusion budget sky rocketed,” he said.
The STTI program is for students who need to be educated outside of the school district for various reasons. Because the number of students and the cost to enroll those students increased, the committee felt that a cut in the public school budget was necessary.
Because of the current economy and the town’s need to spend money elsewhere, the school budget needed to be cut. When all was said and done, the Fitness & Health department took the first hit.