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Levy keeps kids moving

Running, jumping, leaping, bending, twisting, turning — keeping kids doing all this and more is a full-time job for six physical education teachers in Oak Harbor School District’s elementary schools.

And it’s not just during school hours. For the past several months, fourth and fifth grade students in the Oak Harbor School District have been staying after school two days a week as the PE teachers volunteer extra time for their students’ benefit.

At Olympic View Elementary one afternoon last week, children were busy playing volleyball under the watchful eye of several PE instructors. Similar scenes can be seen throughout the school district as students representing their schools compete against one another in lighthearted competition.

“The emphasis is on getting along with other people and learning skills,” said Joyce Knowlton, the PE teacher at Olympic View Elementary School.

The PE teachers in the Oak Harbor School District volunteer their time to provide an after school activity that focuses on good sportsmanship and exercise.

“The idea is to get as many kids as possible involved and to touch the ball,” Knowlton said while she was refereeing a vollyball game between the students. In addition to vollyball, the teachers supervise soccer in the fall and, hopefully starting next year, softball games in the winter.

The elementary school PE teachers are paid through a levy that voters approved in 2001. Voters will decide March 8 whether to continue the levy, which costs property owners 75 cents per $1,000 of assessed value.

That levy also pays for Advanced Placement classes and remediation classes at the high school, an additional 30 minutes to the elementary school day, thousands of hours of instructional assistant time and art teachers at each of the elementary schools. Should voters re-approve the levy, the school district will collect approximately $2.6 million annually.

Thanks to the levy passing four years ago, each elementary school now has a physical education teacher who works to improve the health and fitness of the students.

Holly Bossow, PE teacher at Oak Harbor Elementary School, spent a recent class teaching second graders about basic tumbling. She focuses on activities “to get kids comfortable with skills they need when they go to middle school.”

Along with Knowlton and Bossow, Jeff Pryor teaches PE at Broad View Elementary, Keri Fezzey teaches at Clover Valley Elementary, Justin Ronning teaches at Crescent Harbor Elementary, and Patty Schrag teaches at Hillcrest Elementary.

Bossow said that students must meet state-approved PE goals in a variety of areas including the one-mile run, sit-ups and push-ups. She added that the teachers are also measuring each student’s body mass index, which uses a student’s height and weight to gauge whether he or she is overweight.

The latest standard for PE calls for 100 minutes of physical activity per week. Nearly two thirds of that requirement is met when students attend the 30 minute class two times a week. The remaining requirement is met with other activities throughout the week, such as the afternoon programs or the daily 10-minute walks done by students at Broad View Elementary School.

A health official outside of the Oak Harbor School District is pleased with the district’s efforts to hire physical education teachers at the lower grade levels.

“PE teachers are highly specialized,” said Kären Grossman, physical activity coordinator for Island County. “There breadth of knowledge is so much more.”

Grossman said that PE teachers’ knowledge of activities and health issues is so extensive that they can provide an in-depth physical education program for the community’s youngsters. Before the PE teachers were brought on board, PE classes were normally the responsibility of the classroom teachers.

Such a program helps teach students about important health concepts like nutrition and exercise that will be valuable their whole lives, Grossman said.

She stressed that physical education is a necessity for schools that, generally, are seeing more and more overweight students.

The number of overweight students have increased throughout the state in recent years. Approximately 20 percent of the students in Washington are overweight. Grossman didn’t have information broken down on a local level, but it’s a goal of the PE teachers to help every child stay trim.

Kim Braegger, a parent with two children at Broad View Elementary School, said the PE program has helped give her daughter, Michelle, an interest in healthy food and exercise. Michelle also exercises regularly, which her mother attributes to the positive influence the instructor, Jeff Pryor, has had on her daughter.

Other parents were appreciative of the PE teachers’ volunteer efforts to provide an after school activity.

Virginia Gregory, whose daughter Kaylee attends Crescent Harbor Elementary School, said Kaylee enjoys having the extra physical activities throughout the day.

Another parent, Dan Hartt, said the activity provides his daughter, Erin, a chance to also learn about representing her school.

“She’s having fun and learning to play,” Hartt said.

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