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Chicago Public Schools Proposes Daily Phys. Ed. for Elementary, High Schools

Daily physical education could soon be coming to Chicago Public Schools.

The school board will consider a proposal Wednesday that would mandate 30 minutes of daily P.E. for elementary schools and an average of 42 minutes a day for high schools, per the Chicago Tribune. Barring any last-second surprises, the board is expected to approve the proposal, according to the paper.

The Illinois School Code already requires students to participate in daily physical activity, but since 1997, the Chicago district has held a state waiver allowing 11th and 12th graders to be exempt from said mandate, per the Chicago Sun-Times. However, this waiver expires following the 2013-14 school year, and the district elected not to pursue its renewal.

Chicago elementary students currently average 60 minutes of P.E. a week, per the Tribune, while 9th and 10th graders each have one semester of it. The new proposal requires a minimum of 30 minutes of daily P.E. for K-8 students, and recommends an average of 225 minutes of weekly P.E. for students in grades 6-8.  It also would mandate all high school students to be scheduled in a physical-education course each semester.

Schools would have three years to add the additional P.E. time, although it remains unclear how exactly the cash-strapped district will cover the costs. Back in May, the district's school board voted to close 49 elementary schools in response to plummeting enrollment and a lack of financial resources.

"What we're looking to do with this policy is really transition from this period of having no physical education at 11th and 12th grade into setting standards for our schools in transitioning physical education back into the core framework," said Stephanie Whyte, the school district's chief health officer, to the Tribune. "For our elementary schools, we want to set standards on what quality physical education looks like and ensure that it's occurring daily in our schools."

The Chicago Teachers' Union estimates that the proposal, if passed, could cost the district upwards of $27 million in teacher salaries alone, per the Sun-Times. According to the paper, at least part of the funding will come from a three-year, $2.25-million U.S. Department of Education grant.

Check back here Wednesday to see whether the board approves the proposal.

UPDATE (Jan. 24, 1:30 p.m.): The Chicago school board did approve the physical-education proposal, per ProgressIllinois.com, setting the stage for daily P.E. to return to the district over the coming years. The district will use $21.5 million in TIF funding over the next two years to hire extra P.E. and arts teachers, according to a press release.

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