Changes in Gym Class Exemptions

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Photo illustration by Rachel Dudley

Next school year, physical education will become a required course on students’ GPA.

Kelly Shinnick, Staff Writer

With new policies on gym exemptions and physical welfare classes affecting students’ GPAs next school year, the effects of these decisions are beginning to be understood by students.

Previously, most gym classes did not accept exemptions from students. Next year, this is going to change, as a larger variety of gym classes will allow exemptions. According to Mrs. Patti Mascia, the department supervisor of PE, this change has occurred because “we’re trying to give kids the opportunity to take a class… that they really like instead of having to take a class because they feel stuck and want to exempt.”

Due to the change of gym class affecting students’ GPA calculations, students that miss the beginning of a semester will not have gym affect their GPA for that semester. This means that fall and winter athletes will not have gym included in their GPA for first and second semesters, respectively. Athletes who exempt from a class during the semester will maintain the grade that they had when they left the class, according to Mrs. Mascia.

This decision was reached because the P.E. teachers determined that a student should be in class for a minimum of six weeks in order to have gym affect their GPA.

“[Previously], we had kids returning, never setting foot in the class for half the semester and then having them return for the last two, three, four, five weeks and then having them take the final,” Mrs. Mascia explained. With gym grades actually affecting students next year, it did not seem fair to the gym teachers to grade an athlete on a topic that they did not cover.

To break it down by season, fall athletes who exempt will not participate in gym for all of first semester and they will not have the class affect their GPA. Winter-only athletes’ GPAs will be affected first semester but not second, and they will not attend class for second semester (if they exempt).

Finally, spring-only athletes will participate in the beginning of second semester and the class will affect their GPA. After their sport starts, if they exempt, they will not return for the rest of the year.

“In order to get a grade… they had to be in the class at least six weeks,” Mrs. Mascia clarified, but “you do get the check off, if you took it, for graduation purposes,” even if you exempt from the class.

Despite the physical welfare department’s positive views of the changes , some athletes are upset over the change.

“It’s unfair that the other (fall and winter) sports get to exempt (from gym affecting GPA) and everything, but we don’t,” track athlete Stephanie Gay, a sophomore, remarked. “It’s really unfair because, like, gym going into your GPA when you’re all honors and AP classes — it’ll bring down your GPA. And so being in a spring sport, it’s a big disadvantage on your grades,” Gay explained.

Allie Kuhlman, a sophomore, was also concerned over the developments, though for different reasons. Kuhlman pointed out that Illinois is one of only six states that requires gym class in every grade.

She worries that “nobody else for colleges is going to use that (physical education) as a factor for their GPA,” which could have a negative effect when she applies for colleges. “It definitely hurts my GPA because I am going to have so many AP classes that will be weighted,” she continued, “and gym will just be considered a regular class that will bring down my GPA.”

However, Kuhlman is a large supporter of the new change in gym exemptions: “I mean, I really appreciate being able to exempt for the whole semester because I’m a swimmer. I’m already swimming, so gym makes it harder to perform well…so this change is great.”