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Mandatory Phys. Ed. Legislation Has Va. School Administrators Sweating

Pending legislation in Virginia that would make 150 minutes of physical education per week mandatory for K-8 students has some school officials in the state feeling queasy.

"Any time we get another unfunded mandate from the state, it worries us," Albemarle Assistant Superintendent Billy Haun told the Charlottesville Daily Progress. "It's going to be a problem."

The legislation, which only awaits Gov. Bob McDonnell's signature at this point, is seen as an effort to promote physical well-being and combat obesity of the state's youngsters. If McDonnell does sign the bill, it won't take effect until the 2014-15 school year, giving districts a few years to adjust their schedules accordingly.

However, with districts across the state already facing budget concerns, some administrators aren't thrilled with the prospect of adding more programs to their schools' curricula.

"I'd really like to have more time for physical education," Diane Ehrens, coordinator for the Charlottesville city schools' health and P.E. department, said to the Daily Progress. "However, the reality of increasing mandates, decreasing funding from the state, as well as the finite amount of time to meet all standards, will have an impact on our resources."

"The part that really worries me from an instructional standpoint is, even if we have P.E. teachers that can cover this, we're taking another 30 minutes away from what?" Haun said. "It's going to put us in a really tough situation about making some really tough choices."

According to the Daily Progress, Fairfax County, which is the state's largest school district, estimates that the bill could cost the district between $18 and $24 million. One member of the county's delegation said that district leaders told him three weeks ago that the bill would cost Fairfax $8 million per year. The district is urging the governor to veto the bill.

The bill, in its current form, was rewritten to change "physical fitness" to "physical education" to allow schools to include health/wellness classes as part of the 150 minutes/week requirement. Half-day kindergarten programs are also excluded from the requirement in the current version of the bill.

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