Bill mandates daily gym at elementary schools

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CHIPPEWA FALLS, Wis. (WEAU) – Some Wisconsin lawmakers are trying to help kids be more active when they’re at school with the Get Youth Moving campaign, also known as the Gym bill.

The Assembly Children and Families Committee held a hearing Wednesday on the bill introduced by Republican Rep. Chad Weininger, of Green Bay.

Parents, teachers and doctors are joining together to support a bill that would require elementary students in Wisconsin to get at least half an hour of daily physical education.

Data from the state Department of Health Services shows that one in four Wisconsin adolescents are overweight or obese.

Supporters of the bill are asking Wisconsin elementary schools to increase the physical education requirement to match the national recommendation of 30 minutes each day. Current law requires physical education three times a week for an unspecified amount of time. The daily gym class requirement was dropped in the late 1980s.

But one local school says, although the idea would benefit students, they would need to hire another physical education teacher and have scheduling issues to meet the mandate.

Halmstad Elementary physical education teacher Mike Bestul said the kids love gym class. From floor hockey to basketball and running, these elementary students like to have fun.

“With the younger kids we really try to just get them active, learning local motor movements, trying to learn special awareness, get them excited about phy-ed. At this age, it's very exciting,” said Bestel.

The Chippewa Falls School district runs on an ABC schedule, that means kids rotate between music, art and physical education. Bestul said gym class is 40 minutes every three days in the district.

He said there are definitely benefits to having more gym class because it keeps kids active every day.

“We can do different types of activities, because we'll have more time with them. We can get more in depth with our skill work and things like that,” said Bestul.

But it wouldn’t be an easy task to follow if the bill does pass. Principal Wade Pilloud said physical education and exercise can help kids stay focused in school and also keep them healthy, but there are problems from an administrative perspective.

“Physical education is fantastic. The problem is, who's going to pay for it and where are we going to find time? Currently with the way we're setup with our scheduling and our staffing, basically we'd be increasing it by twice as much. Obviously we'd need to find somebody to pay to do that and it creates budgetary constraints,” said Pilloud.

One option would be to take time away from other classes.

“Are we going to take that time from music, or are we going to take from science, or are we going to take it from art, reading?” he said.

It would be the biggest curriculum change since Pilloud has been at Halmstad.

But the school does have other ways of encouraging kids to keep active outside of the 80 minutes each week. The Halmstad Mileage Club was launched this fall and it’s a chance for students to run miles and keep track of it on a wall inside the gymnasium. They get a medal for doing well.

“The biggest thing at the elementary level, we want to instill that to learn about fitness and health and really to get excited about it because if you're excited about it, they'll be excited about it going into middle school and high school and hopefully lifelong learners once they get out of school,” said Bestul.

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