Looser gym requirements would allow for an interesting, flexible schedule


Pravar Mukkala

The screen in PowerSchool where Physical Education classes can be selected.

Pravar Mukkala, Opinions Editor

Each year in February, the WA community is abuzz with talk over schedules for the upcoming year. Is five AP classes too many to handle? Should I take honors or CP? How much homework should I expect from this class? Can I defer gym?

At WA, students are required to take four semesters of physical education classes in order to graduate. This means that in a regular student’s high school career, gym takes up about 7% of all courses— a 7% that could be used for classes to help a student’s future college endeavors or career.

What astounds me is the rigidity of the gym requirement. There seems to be no flexibility around replacements for a semester of gym, or even pushing gym to another year. As of the 2021-2022 school year, only incoming freshmen can defer gym to their sophomore year. What use is deferring gym for freshmen, who have just a minority of WA’s electives available to them?

Without the ability to defer gym, this leaves a permanent half-semester of gym in the remaining years of a student’s high school career here, blocking any space for a full-year course, including AP classes. The way gym blocks the space for more challenging academic classes is frustrating, to say the least. At WA, we are fortunate to have a wide array of electives, from marine biology to statistics. However, many electives are full years, which means that it gets harder to fit them in with a half-year of gym. Upperclassmen, who are eligible for more full-year classes compared to freshmen, are rendered unable to take them because of gym.

Besides, as great of a school as WA is, its physical education program isn’t always as fun or enriching for students as some other electives are. So many times in gym have I felt that there was something better I could be doing, and while some activities in gym were enjoyable, other things I did outside of school helped my physical fitness more.

However, four semesters of gym in high school is a state requirement in MA that all public schools have to follow. However, giving gym credit to students who play a school sport seems like a good option; MA state law does not forbid this, either.

Additionally, varsity athletes who put hours of work each week into their sport being forced to take gym is an absurd idea. Sports require lots of exercise, and having gym every week means that they have to over-exercise or waste their time not exercising for one hour.

For the 2022-2023 school year, WA introduced new gym courses, including team games and rhythmic movement. While I appreciate the time spent to develop these classes, I still feel that Westford has more to do when it comes to physical education.

The variety in gym classes isn’t a problem; it is appreciated. The problem is that students want to participate in other electives that could be equally, or more, beneficial to their social-emotional learning than physical education.

Making gym exempt for athletes who play a school sport would be a good step in the right direction. Many WA students play a varsity sport, and exercise enough that a semester of gym does not end up helping.

In addition, loosening up rules as to when students have to take gym would allow for more flexibility for students to take their preferred classes. Having the ability to defer gym to whichever year preferred would make scheduling for students easier, and allow us to take the classes we want.