Senior Charlie Acquisto (left) plays rock-paper-scissors with track and field coach Rick Fullum (right) on March 9. (Photo: Emma Boersma)

Physical education requirements modified due to COVID-19

COVID-19 has changed the way high school students can complete their four required semesters of physical education, PE. They can participate in athletics, independent PE, the PE elective or any combination of all three. 


One season of a sport is equivalent to a semester of PE.

On March 13, Country Day suspended in-person learning, which indefinitely postponed 2020 spring sports in the middle of their seasons. Athletic Director Matt Vargo and Head of High School Brooke Wells decided to count those seasons as a full semester of PE credit and said it was unfair if they didn’t.

“Some teams did play, like tennis, and some teams trained a lot, like baseball and track and field,” Vargo said.

“Every team at least practiced for over a month. A lot of student-athletes continued to train on their own because our coaches sent out workouts and/or ideas to do stuff,”

Vargo talked to other schools to see how they were counting canceled sports. They had all given credit to their students as well, he said.

Country Day is being flexible about the hours, Wells said.

“If someone signs up for a sport but the sport doesn’t run completely, you’ll still get credit for that sport,” he said. “If the sport doesn’t run at all, I’m not sure what we’re going to do, but the hope is that we’re going to get these sports up and running.”

The high school is not going to hold a senior from graduating if they’ve been playing something for three years and were planning to play this year as well. If students can’t physically play a sport, it’s unrealistic for every high school student to join PE, Wells said.

Country Day is in the California Interscholastic Federation (CIF), and falls under the Sac-Joaquin Section and is part of the Sacramento Metropolitan Athletic League. The 2020-21 fall sports seasons start dates for the Sac-Joaquin Section have been scheduled, according to the CIF website.

Cross country’s first practice is scheduled to start on Dec. 7 and coed soccer and girls volleyball on Dec. 14. The winter and spring sports will start in the spring, sometime between Feb. 1 and March 18.

Certain precautionary measures will be necessary during games.

“Right now, the Sacramento County guidelines say that we can’t even share a ball yet,” Vargo said. “But I’m optimistic that we’ll be able to play by the time the seasons start.”

Vargo anticipates that team bench areas and spectator seating will have to be addressed to add more spacing.

The likelihood of players being able to compete depends on the Sacramento County guidelines.

“Once we get to compete, the Sacramento County guidelines indicate that players don’t have to wear masks during competitions,” Vargo said.

Independent PE

Independent PE is also an alternative for students to obtain high school credit.

Independent PE can include — but are not limited to — competitive club teams, physical therapy, yoga or ballet. 

Students need to be doing some sort of physical activity multiple hours a week that’s monitored by a trainer or professional, Wells said.

“The only thing that might be different is what the students are doing or how they’re training,” Wells said.

If students’ independent PE programs stopped, they could join the PE elective to continue getting credit, said Michelle Myers, director of physical education.

PE elective

The PE elective is scheduled to start in-person on Nov. 1 if Country Day continues to stay in or above the red zone until then, Wells said.

Despite being online, the PE elective has stayed relatively the same.

The class starts with a warmup, which includes dynamic exercises or cardio workouts. After that, students have a “mindful minute,” during which they can relax. Then students get into the activity portion of the class — either Tabata, HIIT or YouTube workouts. The class ends with a cooldown, which mostly consists of five to 10 minutes of yoga. Sometimes, the class has guests from local gyms who lead the workout for that day, Myers said.

“It’s almost like independent PE, because I’ve introduced them to all of these different programs, and now they can create an individualized workout plan for themselves,” Myers said.

Junior Masai Dumisani said she prefers doing workouts on her own — specifically biking or strength training.

“It makes more sense for all of us to all do our own thing and then come back together once a week to do something together,” Dumisani said.

Zoom has glitches often and people’s wifi connections are poor, so it’s hard for everyone to keep up, Dumisani said.

“Also, the workouts we do are catered to beginners, so it’s pretty easy for me, although I do enjoy the HIIT workouts,” she said. “However, I don’t mind the class as much as I thought I would when I first signed up for it.” 

The class uses Google Classroom and the app Kami for their workouts outside of class, Myers said.

For both on-campus and at-home PE, students are required to have a towel, a water bottle and shoes.

Cones and red laundry rope were cut into eight-foot circles to mark off social distancing in the gym when students are able to return on campus. After wearing masks, students will first sanitize and do the same things that they were doing online, but certain activities, like taking a walk by the river or floor hockey, will be modified to fit the social distancing requirements. It’s mandatory for students to wash their hands once the class is over and keep their masks on the entire time, Myers said.

Although the class’s biggest challenge is not being able to play sports, the class is able to talk more about the body.

“We are now able to discuss anatomy, physiology and kinesiology, something which I didn’t usually have time to teach,” Myers said.

“At the beginning of the year, students did a muscle fatigue lab, a muscle fibers lab and a heart rate worksheet, so it allows me to teach the class like a college course.”

— By Sanjana Anand

Originally published in the Oct. 20 edition of the Octagon.

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