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N.Y.C. Council Members Concerned About Adequacy of Schools' P.E.

Thirty-four New York City Council members sent a letter to schools Chancellor Dennis Walcott last Friday expressing concern about the lack of physical education for some students.

"A disturbing number of N.Y.C. schools are not meeting state and national physical education standards," the council members wrote to Walcott.

In the letter, the council members cited an audit of 31 elementary schools done by the city comptroller last year, which accused the district of "failing gym." None of the 31 schools visited was found to be in full compliance with the physical education standards established by the state education department, according to the comptroller's report.

The New York Times recently reported that roughly 20.5 percent of N.Y.C. high school students say they have no phys. ed. classes in an average week, according to a biennial survey from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The council members also brought up a 2008 report from the city's health department, which found teenagers in East and Central Harlem to be nearly three times less likely to attend a daily phys. ed. class (16 percent) than their peers in neighborhoods outside the city's three "District Public Health Office neighborhoods" (45 percent).

"The disparities between our city's neighborhoods when it comes to physical education are unacceptable," said council member Melissa Mark-Viverito in a statement. "We look forward to working with the DOE to achieve a marked improvement in the city's physical education program, particularly in low-income communities of color."

The council members specifically request that the district officials provide reports on average phys. ed. class time, information about how the department plans on expanding its phys. ed. offerings, and plans on addressing disparities between schools, particularly in low-income communities.

They say that they hope to bring schools' P.E. programs to the forefront of the conversation about preventing and reducing obesity in city residents.

"Unlike the administration's 'soda ban,' the expansion of physical-fitness activities and education in schools will go far to teach the benefits of living a healthy lifestyle from an early age." said council member Letitia James in a statement.

A district spokeswoman replied by saying, "We are helping schools provide a high-quality physical education, and through the obesity task force, we will be expanding fitness and wellness programs," according to the Gotham Gazette.

A total of 50 members currently sit on the City Council, according to its website.

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