Dawn Chernicky hates to see students standing against the wall during recess.
The physical education coordinator for Oklahoma City Public Schools said she asks children why they're not playing, and often it's because they're in trouble. Keeping kids from being active isn't a solution, she said.
“It's really important for kids to have physical activity every single day,” Chernicky said.
Divorcing exercise and punishment is one of the proposed changes to district policy that the Oklahoma City School Board is considering under a new wellness policy.
A district wellness policy was first instated in 2006, and a wellness committee began meeting in 2010 to update it.
The proposed policy, introduced this year, has more than doubled in length, adding stipulations about everything from school lunches to recess time. The school board could vote on the policy as early as next month.
The proposed policy has overarching goals but also specific edicts, such as the following:
Elementary school students will have at least an hour of P.E. and an hour of health and wellness education each week.
A district wellness committee of students, staff and community members will track progress throughout the district.
Physical activity, such as doing pushups or running laps, can't be used as punishment, and recess and gym class can't be withheld for students as punishment.
The policy also reiterates the need for healthy food, an echo of federal guideline changes that require schools to trim salt and fat and boost offerings of fruits and vegetables.
The new policy could start changing the culture of schools, Chernicky said. Chernicky said she'd like to see classroom teachers incorporate movement into lesson planning. Students need breaks to stretch and move.
“You know what it's like to sit in a meeting for two hours and not be able to get up,” she said.
Chernicky said students need more after-school options, such as archery, golf or walking and running clubs. Lifestyle sports — tennis, dancing, swimming, cycling — can go on into adulthood.
“Physical activity doesn't just mean P.E. class for an hour a day,” Chernicky said.
Taking seat time from other classes can be tricky, Oklahoma City Superintendent Karl Springer said.
“One of the unintended consequences of the more focused testing accountability has been reducing the amount of time kids get to play and have physical education,” Springer said.
A solution, he said, could be to extend the school day.
While the proposed policy doesn't cover everything, it's a step in the right direction to battle childhood obesity and unhealthy habits, Springer said.