Updated: Sep 24
By Sophia Milla (‘20)
Every year, many students have to miss at least one gym class. However, it’s not like their grade doesn’t matter when they’re absent. In fact, absences count toward students’ grades, and are put in as a zero out of seven. No matter what reason it is, the absence will always count as a grade. Even if student athletes have to leave school early for competitions, their gym grade for the day is put in as a zero, and the only way to make it up is through “make-up gym".
In theory, the zero means the students are not being productive or physical much the same way a teacher of other subjects might say they are not participating. But if students leave early for games or competitions, aren't they still being productive?
According to a survey done by the organization National Federations of State High School Association, “...55.5 percent of all high school students play a sport.”
Leaving school early for athletic reasons affects many students in this case. If a student wants to bring the grade up, the only way to do so is to wait around for an open Wednesday after school, which is known as “make-up gym.”
However, for some students, waiting for Wednesday isn’t possible, especially for those who commit to sports practices daily. Even if they do go to a make-up gym session, they do physical activities that are nothing like the training they do when they’re with their team.
Even though student athletes may be getting more “physical education” out of their sports, there are some barriers that prevent it from actually counting it as physical education. Sports actually aren’t part of the curriculum, while physical education is.
Plus, sports are considered “extracurricular activities” according to Physical Education teacher Mr. Edward Homann.
To a degree, extracurricular activities matter in-school as well.
Physical Education teacher Mr. Craig Schwartz said, “If you want to use your sport, take Option II. Physical education usually is given a label, that it’s just running around, but it’s more than that. You need four years of it to graduate.”
A majority of students only stick on the Option I pathway when it comes to education, which is known as the “in-the-seat” learning path.
Many are unfamiliar with Option II, where credits are independently obtained rather than receiving them in a traditional manner.
At least in the case of gym, according to the Option II Handbook, “Student-athletes may earn marking period credits toward their PE requirement by participating in South Brunswick varsity athletic programs as recognized by the NJ State Interstate Athletic Association (NJSIAA) as well as the Competitive Cheerleading Team, Dance Team, Winter Guard, and Marching Band.”
For some athletes, losing the points when missing a class for a competition isn’t a big deal. However, others may not want to lose points when they are still being active during their absence, and some may argue for full credit.
However, seeking credit while missing gym does not follow the Option I Pathway, which follows the graduation requirements. Physical education is a requirement for graduation, which is listed in the Academic and Professional Standards of New Jersey’s Department of Education.
Physical Education supervisor Mr. John Harding said, “Option II is a pathway to make up credit, not a grade. Students that do three-season sports can use it to study, even if they’re not always studying.”
Option II not only avoids make-up gym sessions, but it also helps athletes balance out their schedules.
Junior Elizabeth Matticoli, who takes Option II for gym said, “I like to take a HAP to do a homework, since not having one is kind of rough. If you do sports and you have a rough schedule, it’s good.”
Sports can truly count as “make-up gym” through the Option II Pathway, which isn’t difficult to arrange.
It may be late this year, if a student wanted to pursue the Option II Pathway for gym, a student should verify the completions each season completion by a head coach or advisor, according to the Option II handbook.
Mr. Harding also said, “Physical Education focuses on the social aspect. Cooperative training. There’s more to P.E. than the physical activity. It’s different than just sports.”
On the other hand, in Option I, make-up gym would be the only way for students in physical education to receive missing credit.
At least there’s two options instead of one.