D128 changes Early Bird PE, Dance exemption policies


Ms. Jaffe

Students in Dance 1, who currently cannot exempt from PE, rehearse on Feb. 1.

District 128 administration has stated that during the 2018-2019 school year, athletic exemptions will no longer be available for students enrolled in Early Bird Physical Education (PE) classes at Vernon Hills and Libertyville High Schools. This change will be made as administration has concluded that this program poses a potential legal issue for the school.

This year, for the first time, District 128 has allowed students the opportunity to exempt from Early Bird gym classes if they are juniors or seniors in a sport. During their sport season, these students can choose to exempt if they meet the exemption requirements, which allows them to stay home and come to school an hour later.

So far, during second semester of this pilot year, 13 out of 52 students enrolled in the course have taken advantage of this opportunity to exempt, according to Dr. Young, director of student programming. This allowed these students to take an extra class or study hall during their day, while not needing to attend their Early Bird PE class. Despite this allowing athletes more sleep and room in their schedule for morning practices, administration explained that this poses a legal issue for the school.

“The primary issue is the legality, meaning if you have a kid on their school schedule that they’re in Early Bird PE, we are responsible for them during that time period,” Young explained. “Yet, they aren’t at school.”

PE Department Supervisor, Mr. McCaulou mirrored these concerns, explaining that when an athlete exempts from their gym class during periods 1-8, they are placed in a study hall. Yet, when an athlete exempts from Early Bird, due to the fact that it is before school, there is no study hall available, so students can choose to stay home, which poses a legal issue for the school.

Despite the liability issue, students are protesting this change by sending a petition around to every grade. Juniors Valerie Smykalov and Katerine Mamulashvili started the petition, urging administration to reconsider their decision. While neither are currently taking Early Bird, they were planning to take the class next year and utilize exemptions during their sport seasons. They can still take Early Bird, but they will not have the opportunity to exempt during their sport season as they had hoped to.

“I want to take as many AP classes as possible because I don’t want to pay a lot of money in college [for general education credits], and to do that, I need to take Early Bird,” Smykalov stated. “I am also doing cross country, so I was going to exempt during my season to get more sleep, but now I can’t.”

The multiple petitions currently being passed around the grades have more than 270 signatures. Administration has acknowledged that these petitions will not necessarily change their decision, but that they do value student voices.

“Petitions show me how strongly people feel, and that will inform decisions,” Dr. Guillaume said.

Next year, students should not expect the capability to exempt from Early Bird PE, but they will have the opportunity to exempt elsewhere. McCaulou explained that next year, students in dance gym classes will now be allowed to exempt during their sport seasons, which they could not do before. So, while Early Bird is losing this option, students in Dance will be able to take advantage of exemptions in the 2018-2019 school year.

Sophie Perry (11) explained that she is in Dance right now and finds it to be a fun class, but she believes that if people want to, they should be allowed to exempt from the class.

Ms. Jaffe, the Dance teacher, stated that while this decision is not ideal, as it causes missed content and physical activity, the decision to allow exemptions at all levels of Dance was created to provide students with more opportunities.

“For example, a student athlete with little to no previous dance experience will now have the opportunity to take Dance I, even if for just a few weeks before their exemption begins,” Jaffe said. “In the past, they would have been prevented from this in order to receive their exemption. Now, it is possible for these students to explore new learning experiences through dance.”

Jaffe added that intermediate and advanced dancers will now be able to balance an intense course load with a heavy competitive season through exemption, and return to a Dance II or III level course where they can continue to build their skills and do what they love in a course appropriate to their level of skill and technique.