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PPS expects to make big cuts to physical education next school year

Portland Public Schools indicated they expect major cuts to physical education for the 2017-2018 school year.

In an email sent to P.E. teachers Friday, the district says massive budget shortfalls are to blame.

KATU News obtained that message sent at 3:55 p.m. Friday, March 17 by the Office of Instruction, Curriculum and Assessment.

It stated that Kindergarten-5th Grade PE instruction will dip to 30 minutes every two weeks and 30 minutes twice a week for middle school students, grades 6-8.

In the email, officials said all K-5 and K-8 schools would be affected. The district said cuts are not "a statement as to the value and worth of our physical education staff and PE programming."

KATU News reached out to the district for further comment, however we have yet to hear back.

"That would be like going to your math or science class for 30 minutes, once every two weeks," Jim Bridger K-8 PE teacher Cheryl McClure told KATU. "We're preparing for that fight, we've done it before," McClure said.

Adaptive PE teacher Sarah Spella says PE is vital for kinesthetic learners and students with disabilities.

"We're using [PE] for children who have emotional disturbances, who have anxiety, who have behavioral disorders and it is effective," Spella said. "These opportunities for the kids are essential for their education."

PE teachers say PPS will likely fail to meet state requirements set by Oregon House Bill 3141, which was passed in 2007 by Governor Ted Kulongoski in an effort to reduce childhood obesity.

The bill requires K-5 students to receive 150 minutes of PE per week and middle schoolers, 225 minutes.

It states that at least 50 percent of the physical education class time is to be actual physical activity with as much time as possible spent in moderate physical activity.

Through the passage of HB 3141, the Oregon Department of Education created PEEK-8 grants. They're designed to support activities related to meeting the physical education instructional requirements for students in kindergarten through 8th grade. It also provided districts with funding to hire more PE teachers to meet state mandates.

Under the law, every school district is to be in compliance by the 2017-18 school year.

Chapman Elementary School PE teacher Ryan Studt says PPS will fail to meet state requirements by cutting funding for PE.

"I don't think that it is in the best interest of the kids to cut programs that we've come so far and fought for so hard to get and establish," Studt said. "[This] makes me really nervous."

Studt transferred from the Vancouver School District three years ago because he thought his job would be secure under HB 3141.

"The music and the PA programs, they truly are strong foundations at Chapman [Elementary]," he said.

Studt says, however, it's less about him and more about the students and the importance of PE.

"Movement, activity, play, that's how we get a majority of our relationships, a majority of our energy out," Studt said. "It's just one of those things that is such an integral part of what we fight so hard for, that's being pulled out from under us."

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