Arkansas Lawmakers Are Sweating it out over the Future of Physical Education Classes

January 19, 2005 -- Posted 5:15 p.m. CDT

Jonesboro, AR -- Governor Huckabee has approved a child health advisory board recommendation that calls for more physical education instruction in public schools. The superintendent of the Bryant school district says he's not sure the changes are feasible. The feelings are mixed in Region 8.

For 55 minutes every day, Westside High School students stretch and lift themselves to better health in a new state of the art multi-purpose building.

"For graduation, all 10th graders must take one semester of P.E.," said Westside physical education instructor Glenda Patterson.

In her 35 years as head instructor, Patterson said in today's society that one semester may not be enough.

"As I find out when I read their journal, they play X-box and Gameboy, and I think that's such a contributing factor to our youth," said Patterson.

It's for that reason Governor Huckabee is proposing additional health education classes in public schools, which he even admits could be overwhelming for school districts. The governor's plan stems from the fact that 2 out 5 Arkansas public school children are overweight or at risk of being overweight and that's a shocking 40%.

"Physical education has always been something emphasized in this district and it's always been something that we're very proud of," said Westside Superintendent Dr. James Best.

But in the Bryant school district, officials are worried about expanding P.E. classes at the expense of taking away other electives like music or art. Then there's the concern that the school day would have to be lengthened to accommodate all the classes. In the Westside school district they're willing to sweat it out for the student's health as long as going the extra mile doesn't take away from a balanced school day.

"I don't think anyone can argue against it. I know there are challenges with getting everything in within the day. Fine arts is certainly an important area, and I've got to believe that in the spirit of cooperation, where everything can be done," said Best.