Medford schools seek backing for P.E. posts

For the past 20 years, support for physical education at Medford elementary schools has been about as stale as old gym socks.

Soon, however, newly hired physical-education specialists could be running kids through catching and throwing exercises — if the Medford School Board agrees to accept a one-time, $500,000 grant the district received from the Oregon Department of Education and pay the benefit costs of hiring new instructors.

Schools that received grants

These Medford elementary schools received a grant to pay the salary of a PE specialist:

Griffin Creek Elementary School

Howard Elementary School

Jackson Elementary School

Jefferson Elementary School

Kennedy Elementary School

Oak Grove Elementary School

Roosevelt Elementary School

Ruch School

Washington Elementary School

Wilson Elementary School

"If it gets approved, it will be great to have a specialist to focus on PE standards," says Howard Elementary Principal Sallie Johnson.

Her school was one of 10 elementary campuses to receive $50,000 to hire someone specifically to teach children about healthy lifestyles and lifelong wellness, and develop grade-appropriate PE activities.

Regular classroom teachers currently handle PE duties. If freed from this task, they could spend more time preparing for academic lessons.

To receive the grants, at least two of every five children in the school needed to qualify for free or reduced-priced lunch.

Across the state, 58 schools were awarded the Physical Education Expansion K-8 Teacher Hire and Professional Development Grants, some of which are funded by Oregon's Tobacco Settlement Funds.

The grant covers salaries for the licensed elementary physical education teachers for one year.

The Medford School District is asking the board at the Monday, Sept. 16, meeting to pay for the new employees' benefits, which could cost about $220,000, according to Julie Evans, director of elementary education and instruction.

Superintendent Phil Long says he wants to request additional funding for similar programs at Abraham Lincoln, Hoover, Jacksonville and Lone Pine elementary schools, which did not qualify for the grant.

"Our classroom teachers have training for teaching PE but also are responsible for teaching reading, writing, math and all other core subjects," says Evans.

With the passage of House Bill 3141, students in first to fifth grades are required to have at least 150 minutes of PE instruction within a school week, and students in grades six through eight need 225 minutes per week.

"The ability for one teacher to fit it all in within our school day has its barriers," says Evans.

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