MISD webinar focuses on health, PE and summer school programs

Mercer Island School District (MISD) Superintendent Fred Rundle and Director of Learning Services Jamie Prescott delved into a three-pronged review of health, physical education and summer school programs during a Feb. 27 community webinar.

The Zoom meeting hosts’ mid-year update focused on reasons for conducting the reviews, the implications to the courses, what’s on tap in the near future and more at Mercer Island High School (MIHS) and Islander Middle School (IMS).

Prescott noted that school board policy states that the district is required to engage in annual reviews for its curriculum, which included recently wrapping up a five-year MIHS math review and a yearlong biology review. Reviews are underway for the district’s Alternative Learning Experience, online learning and other areas in its curriculum.

“We are always looking at programs and looking to ensure that we’re meeting our students’ needs. That our programs are aligned with the state standards and curricular standards,” Prescott said. “This year, specifically, we’re reviewing our summer school, PE and health courses in addition to a number of others. These three in particular because they seem to have a lot of crossover. The interest in PE and health courses has a direct correlation to our summer school enrollment and vice versa.”

It was a natural fit to connect the three portions of the curriculum, said Prescott, who noted that district staff has learned through student surveys that their interests in that triple domain includes: fulfilling graduation requirements, open opportunities to take other classes during the school year, allowing for possible “off periods” during the year and flexibility in schedules.

On the district staff front, administrators and teachers who conduct the reviews are interested in maintaining the highest academic standards, providing rigorous and challenging learning, keeping focused on the whole child, accreditation and compliance and more.

Students and parents provide input typically through surveys, and two more surveys will be distributed on March 11 to gain students’ insight on the district’s PE and summer school offerings.

Of the 24 credits required for high school graduation, students need 1.5 PE credits, .5 for health and 2.05 in the fine arts sphere. The district will continue to offer PE and health during summer school, which also features an elective special interest course focused on moral choices.

Other areas of the district curriculum that Islanders have shown an interest in are after-school directed athletics (.5 credit per season toward PE credits) and the IMS PE waiver. All sixth-graders must enroll in PE courses, but seventh- and eighth-graders can waive PE to pursue other interests, such as elective offerings.

Prescott said the waiver comes into play as follows: “It has to be one of three criteria — there’s a religious exemption, there’s a disability exemption and then there’s a directed athletics exemption.”

Rundle added that if a student is waiving PE, they still need to account for their minutes, tracking their time to capture their full, non-PE experience.

In the robust directed athletics portion of the webinar, Prescott said the MIHS principal decides what sport or activity earns a PE credit. In this realm, students can participate in a school-sponsored sport or an approved outside activity. Prescott said this could range from crew to fencing to a group of soccer players forming a rec team if they didn’t make the school squad.

“Once we’ve established what it looks like to earn directed athletics credit, then any opportunity can be vetted through that lens,” she said. Prescott and Rundle added that marching band and other activities will be under consideration for directed athletics inclusion.

To view the webinar, visit: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7EHeU_DTEE0