BY EDER YOU LIKE IT OR NOT (KATIE EDER) —
In November, I was biking on North Avenue when someone swung their car door open, causing me to flip over their door and fly into the street. I landed, stunned, in the middle of North Avenue. Afterwards, sitting in the emergency room, in addition to thinking about how much my head and arm hurt, I was mostly dreading all the gym classes I was going to have to make up.
Luckily, my injuries were minor and only required me to be out of my zero hour Team Concepts class for a few weeks; however, it was still incredibly stressful and overwhelming to make up all the gym classes I missed before the semester ended in January.
My experience is not unique. I am one of the many students at Shorewood who are injured or become ill while enrolled in a gym class and must make up every missed class, even as they recover. The physical education department needs to reassess the gym makeup policies they strictly and universally enforce. Sick and injured students often are more stressed, both physically and mentally, about making up gym classes than about getting better.
For physical education class at our school, every day missed must be made up outside of your normal gym class period. Even with a doctor’s note, all students, regardless of the nature of their illness or injury, are required to make up every missed class.
If students do not make up their missed classes, their grades suffer. According to physical education department policy, with the exception of exercising with heart rate monitors, students are only allowed to do each of the other accepted makeup activities once — and there are only eight of them, including doing one home makeup, going to one open swim, attending one varsity game or going to one booster club-sponsored presentation. This rule limits the use of alternative gym makeup activities, perhaps activities appropriate for someone who has an injury or illness. Furthermore, the recreation department and booster club presentations rarely happen, and students cannot influence when they will happen.
Because of the lack of options for gym makeups, if you have a lengthy illness or injury, you must come in before or after school, during lunch or during a free period to exercise with a heart rate monitor.
Like many students at Shorewood, I have no free periods in my schedule, and I have a club almost every day during lunch. For this reason, in order to make up my missed gym classes after my accident, I came to school around 6:10 A.M. everyday for nearly a month, to exercise with a heart rate monitor. I did this despite the fact that I was still recovering from my accident. My story is not extreme, as many students at Shorewood have similar experiences. In some cases, students are forced to drop their required gym class because they simply do not have time to finish the makeups within the semester.
The physical education policy states that, “If your son/daughter has extenuating circumstances during the semester, every effort will be made by the PE staff to create alternative assignments/activities/makeups that are acceptable by you, their doctors and the PE staff. These modifications will be made on a case by case basis.” Despite the existence of this policy, few students are allowed to pursue such a path. Instead, students who are injured or ill struggle, often for weeks, to make up missed gym classes by exercising with a heart rate monitor.
Physical education is vital, especially because the obesity level, even among teens, is on the rise and students spend lots of time sedentary in front of screens. However, the current implementation of the policy on missed physical education classes is detrimental to the well being of ill and injured students. This makeup policy for missed classes does not exist for any of our academic classes. We do not have to come in and sit in additional classes and listen to more lectures when we are sick.
Ideally, if students have a valid medical excuse, they should be excused from their missed gym classes without being penalized. If we need to make up gym, it is far better to let us make up missed classes at home with activities appropriate for our current state of health — activities that help to preserve and build both our mental and physical well being. The physical education department needs to reassess their gym makeup policy to ensure that all students are safe and healthy.