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Health curriculum ready for the test as school opens

The 14-year-old teachings of Oak Harbor School District’s health classes are about to get a check up.

Students returning to classrooms this fall will behold the spectacle of a new health and fitness curriculum that features a brand new textbook instead of a revised edition.

“The big (change) that people are going to notice is that the kids will have textbooks,” said Charisse Berner, the district’s curriculum director. “It will be like Christmas for the health teachers at the beginning of the school year.”

The district adopted its old curriculum in 1990, Berner said. No textbooks were available to students. Teachers at the middle school level used Internet printouts and other materials, she said.

“It was a mishmash of online supplemental materials — it was just bad,” Berner said. “Now, each kiddo’s going to have a new textbook.”

The new curriculum does not come without a price tag. The total cost for the middle school and ninth grade materials is approximately $64,101. Of that, $62,198 is for textbooks. All of the extra resources for teachers came at no additional cost, Berner said.

“There’s more in the textbook than teachers can teach in the time allotted for it,” she said.

The change is a sign of the district’s commitment to the health of its students. Health and fitness have long been shoved to the fringes of teaching to make room for the core lessons the state requires, Berner said. The district’s curriculum review team identified health and fitness as a trouble area for the district, she said.

“When we look at what the (essential learning requirements) require of kids, we’re not lined up with that,” Berner said. “Our materials aren’t adequate to our standards.”

The new curriculum has up-to-date information about such topics as healthy lifestyles, how the body works, exercise and sexuality. The new curriculum’s sexuality teachings are based upon abstinence.

“That’s where we start,” Berner said. “This is a hot button that most people don’t want to put in writing.”

The district plans on adressing topics of healthy sexuality, Berner said, but not before acquiring school board approval. Students currently view a video on the topic of HIV/ AIDS each year. The new curriculum could delve into issues such as homosexuality and other controversial areas.

“I think we can not not address some of these topics — TV does, movies do,” Berner said.

A new curriculum for elementary students should be in place by the middle of the school year.

You can reach News-Times reporter Eric Berto at eberto@whidbeynewstimes.com

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