Love it or hate it, gym class is an integral part of the elementary school experience. But with a campus that lacks both a gym and a designated physical education instructor, it's also an experience that the students of have largely gone without.
All that may change, though, if a partnership with the Kings Bay Y at Windsor Terrace is as successful as many parents and educators hope it will be.
The brainchild of the PTA's fitness committee and Y staff, the partnership consists of a six-week pilot program in which two trained Kings Bay Y instructors work with P.S. 130 teachers to provide fun, structured P.E. classes to the school's fourth grade students.
"We don’t have a gym, and we don’t have a P.E. teacher, so our teachers bear the burden of P.E. instruction, whether they’re passionate and qualified or not," said Charlotte Kelly, who heads the PTA for P.S. 130. "A big part of our goal was to help teachers create an environment where they can meet our kid's needs. This was one of the ideas we came up with."
According to the New York Times, P.S. 130 is hardly the only school whose P.E. program is in need of beefing up. An audit found that not one of the 31 schools visited was in full compliance with New York's guidelines on physical education. Even the Department of Education itself is out of shape—it hasn't updated its plans for physical education since 1982.
For Nadira Persaud, the site supervisor at the Kings Bay Y at Windsor Terrace, the notion of a school without a gym was somewhat shocking. (For the record, P.S. 130 isn't the only Windsor Terrace school sans gym; doesn't have one, either.)
“It was a phenomenon for us to because, how could you have a school built without a gym?" she said.
Working with parents, Persaud and her colleagues decided a good first step would be to incorporate exercise into the Y's after school program. Rather than putting students on a bus, Y staff began leading the kids on the roughly half-mile walk from P.S. 130 to the Y.
One thing led to another, Persaud said, and the idea for the partnership was born.
Hector Mejia and Markin Delacruz, the instructors tasked with leading the pilot P.E. program, said they were overwhelmed by the positive response they got from the kids.
"We went there as optimistic as possible, but I didn’t expect them to be so jumpy about it," Delacruz said. "We got there and they were just ready to go right into it."
Kelly said her own fourth grader, Olivia, had nothing but good things to say about her P.E. experience with Mejia and Delacruz.
"She said it was really organized and really fun, so I think she appreciated the structure," Kelly said, adding that other parents had been given similar reports from their own children. "I would say that it has been positively received, for sure."
Whether the pilot will someday transform into a school-wide program remains a question for the future.
Funding is an abiding issue, but Kelly said she and other parents will continue to encourage teachers to incorporate physical fitness into their curriculum. A selection of fitness DVDs are available to teachers to help get kids out of their chairs in class, and the school recently applied for a grant to spruce up the playyard and make it more accessible for sports and recreation.
“This is part of our children’s required curriculum—we’re just trying to improve it," she said. "I do think that it is part of what they should be learning. It's not just about academics. It's about the whole body."