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Students, Teachers Adjust to Gym Class Without Athletes

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DUBUQUE, Iowa - Policy changes are drastically shifting the dynamic of physical education in Iowa. Former students walking into some gym classes may not see the Dodgeball or kickball games they remember.

In the late 1990's the state of Iowa first began letting school districts decide to let student athletes opt out on P.E. classes.

Just a few years ago, Dubuque Schools got on board with that game plan. Any high school student in Dubuque who participates in two or more sports can get a waiver from physical education.
There are no heroes in P.E. Teacher, Karla Weber's gym class. No ball hogs either. In Weber's Hempstead High School physical education class everyone gets the ball. A giant exercise ball, that is.

"We're making it so that everyone is participating. We don't need those athletes to keep classes rolling, " said Weber.

Weber says in past years, she relied on the multi-sport athletes to take on the leadership roles in her classes. But the majority of those athletes no longer need to show up for gym. That's why she restructured her curriculum to engage students who aren't so keen on sports.

Weber said, "This year, I am focusing more on the cardiovascular fitness. So I am trying to trick them into getting their heart rate up "

Gone are the days of sitting on the sidelines.

Dubuque Schools Wellness Director, Amy Hawkins said, "Kids are used to coming in and being able to do little to no work. And then all of a sudden, we say 'this is what we are going to do. In order to get here. You have to do these types of things'. "

Students are graded based on the changes they make in class.Teachers measure a students physical abilities at the beginning and end of the semester. But that grade is not included in a student's grade point average.

"We really grade a lot on participation," said Hawkins.

For twin sisters, Marie and Natalie LoBianco, gym class hasn't always been a pleasant place.

Natalie said, "I felt like the athletes kind of knew what they are doing more than I did. "

But with far fewer athletes in class, the sisters say, that's all changed.

"I feel like, in here, everyone is on the same level. I don't feel like it's a competition to get involved in the game. We all just do it, " said Marie.

As for the student athletes, it allows them more time in the classroom, focusing on core subjects like science and math. Or more specialized subjects.

Student Athlete, Haley Guerdet said, "Because I get out of Gym class, I can take a video production. That's something I can use in my career path. "

Hawkins said, "Bottom line. We want our kids to be healthy. We want them exercising. If they're out for sports, we know that every day they are getting good exercise. "

High School Students in Iowa can take fitness classes like yoga or weight-lifting online. But, in order for the students to get credit for the class, there must be a certified physical education instructor in the room.

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