Area schools want Governor to reconsider exercise requirement

By Melissa Correa - bio | email
Posted by Terry Alexander - email

CHESTERFIELD, VA (WWBT) – With the stroke of Governor Bob McDonnell's pen, physical education could be required in all Virginia public schools. It's a major step for the state which is battling a childhood obesity problem like the rest of the nation. But some area schools are not on board yet.

The state wants to require 30 minutes of physical education everyday for students enrolled in public school. If that happens, school systems like Chesterfield will have to find millions of dollars in order to meet the requirement.

Sam Thornhill and his classmates at Greenfield Elementary in Chesterfield are so committed to exercise. They come in early, before school, just to break a sweat. Sam's mom Ellen Thornhill is proud. If it weren't for his early, optional workouts Sam would only run through his energy at recess.

But if approved by Governor McDonnell later this month, public schools would need to carve out 30 minutes each day for exercise. This has to happen by the fall of 2014 when the requirement would take effect.

NBC12 education expert Dr. Bill Bosher said several questions still linger.

"The real issue is how to make it a reality," said Bosher. "How you will fund it. And what it does in terms of time to a school day."

Chesterfield schools will need to find an extra $6-$8 million for the program.

"Another question is: do we have, even with 23 colleges preparing teachers in Virginia, do we have enough people, if we're going to teach it by a specialist, to actually staff those classes," asked Bosher.

Chesterfield is drafting a letter to the governor, asking him to wait on signing the bill.

Richmond Public Schools won't be sending a letter to the Governor. The school district supports required P.E. In fact, decision-makers are devising plans to make the exercise program work.

But Henrico wants more time before searching for funds. Henrico County School Board Chairman Lamont Babgy offered this statement: "Our middle and high school students already meet the physical education criteria and even though the new legislation doesn't count it, our elementary schools meet the requirements when recess is included."

Governor Bob McDonnell will sign, amend or veto the bill by March 29th.

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