Should Frederick High’s Graduation Requirements be Adjusted?

FHS requires 2 PE credits in order to graduate. Why?


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The current graduation requirements for all students in St. Vrain Valley Schools. Even though the PE credit requirement is more than the Arts requirements, classes in both areas have really strong numbers of students enrolled. “I don’t think [the graduation requirements] has a direct correlation to [class sizes] because there are kids who might [complete all of their PE credits in their freshman year, but may want to take additional PE classes when they have an opening in their schedule], says Mr. Gordon.

Owen Willis and Jillian Margheim

For as long as anyone at Frederick High can remember, two Physical Education credits, .5 Fine Arts credits, and .5 Practical Arts credits have been among the many graduation requirements for students across St. Vrain Valley Schools. There are many reasons why St. Vrain has these as graduation requirements, but the most notable one is to ensure that all students graduate with a strong competitive advantage to be successful in whatever path they choose to pursue after graduation.

In regards to the number of PE credits required to graduate, Mr. Chico Garcia, a member of the St. Vrain Valley Schools Board of Education, says that “this requirement has been in place for over 20 years, [and I am] not sure [what the requirements were before] 2000.” 

There are many reasons as to why St. Vrain Valley Schools has chosen to keep the current PE graduation requirement, a main one being that academics and athletics are closely related in a positive way.

“The decision was based on recognizing the benefits of physical activity, benefits of participating in lifetime sports activities, and the correlation between physical and emotional well-being,” says Mr. Garcia. “The requirement is [also] based on the belief that academics, physical and emotional well-being/health are all important, intertwined elements of a student’s development.”

The possibility of changing the requirement was a topic of discussion many years ago, and while the decision was made to keep the requirement at what it is presently, the District did add the ability to earn credits from participating in extracurricular sports or other athletic activities.

“[It is] my understanding [that] the Board re-evaluated this requirement several years ago with the help of teachers and the Student Advisory Board, and that is when the [opportunity was added] to replace a credit for students who could demonstrate participation in an organized, credible, sophisticated and prolonged physical activity such as high school athletics or a sophisticated, supervised program outside of the high school such as competitive ice skating, indoor track, competitive skiing, club volleyball, gymnastics, etc,” Mr. Garcia says. 

Despite having to take four PE classes and two Arts classes, class sizes in each area are not necessarily a cause for concern at this time. For PE, this is because there is lots of space and equipment available to allow students to participate in class in a safe manner. For the Arts classes at Frederick High, there is less space for students due to classroom size, but there is still enough space for each student to work on their projects and assignments.

“Compare the gym size or the weight room size or the wrestling room size, just square footage wise to a regular class. You can fit more [students] in [those rooms], and when you can play two or three basketball games at one time, you have 20 kids running around at one time or you might have 15 kids sitting on the side getting ready to rotate in, so there is always movement,” says Mr. Ty Gordon, the Athletic Director/Assistant Principal at Frederick High. “When you look outside of the gym [and other rooms in the athletic hallway], when it is nice out, most of those programs are outside, so you [also] have these huge facilities [both indoor and outdoor] where you can house all of [the PE classes offered at Frederick High.].”

“I would say that my class sizes have increased significantly in the past year or so, although I teach mostly beginning Art courses, which are generally much larger than the advanced ones. It does get difficult in terms of exhaustive materials we have to purchase, and students often struggle to find adequate space to create comfortably; however, we always find a way to make it work,” says Ms. Megan LeSage, an Art teacher at Frederick High. “We have also had to modify which courses we can offer due to limited storage space for materials and student projects.  We are also using a space that wasn’t designed as an Art room to accommodate our Beginning Drawing classes, which limits what media they can work with due to the lack of a sink and lack of proper ventilation.”

While there are many reasons as to why the District maintains the graduation requirement at two credits for PE, and .5 for Fine and Practical Arts, some students feel that students should be required to take fewer PE classes to graduate to make room in their schedules for other classes.

“I think PE should be an option because a lot of people take the same PE classes over the course of the four years [that] they are in school, although, [since] it is a participation-based class [it is] easy to pass and get credit for [completing it]” says Kayla Neab, a senior at Frederick High.

Other students at Frederick High feel that the requirements are good where they are since it gives students the opportunity to be active throughout the day in PE classes and teaches important skills that can be used throughout life.

“I feel like it is a good idea [to require two PE credits] because it forces [students] to be active so they [stay in shape], and [the classes] teach them what they need to do [to stay fit and healthy] in the future,” says Kyle Booker, a junior at Frederick High.

While the students that we interviewed have different opinions as to what the graduation requirements should be, all of the staff members that we interviewed agree with the graduation requirements since it still gives students the opportunity to explore different classes that Frederick High offers, while ensuring that all students are able to get all of the classes they need for graduation.

“Yes I believe we should have the required 4 classes – that is simply one PE class for each year in high school,” says Ms. Suzanne Robison, a PE teacher and the Head Volleyball Coach at Frederick High. “For the most part, many students end up taking even more than is required.  Getting some physical activity done during the day will help students to better perform in [their other] classes.”

“Regarding the graduation requirements, of course I will always advocate for students to take as many Art courses that they might find interest in! I don’t necessarily agree with increasing the requirements simply because I believe students should have the freedom to pursue courses they want to take, rather than take courses only because they have to,” says Ms. LeSage. ”Having at least a small requirement helps us reach students who might not have otherwise taken Art, and some of these students find they actually enjoy it and choose to take more Art courses!” she adds.

The teachers that we interviewed are happy with the classes that their respective departments offer, as well as where the graduation requirement currently stands in terms of determining class sizes. However, they do agree with the students in that they wish there were additional classes offered at Frederick High, but they are not able to be offered currently due to staffing, transportation, and funding.

“I feel that there is a variety of PE courses offered at Frederick, enough so that students can choose and find something that they enjoy,” says Ms. Robison. “I would love to offer a few other different classes but we are restricted by transportation and funds.”

Expanding elective course offerings at Frederick High would not only help to decrease the size of certain classes, but for many students, it would also alleviate the need to travel to the Innovation Center or Career Elevation and Technology Center to take certain classes.

“I don’t know whether changing the graduation requirement will help class sizes, but perhaps if we could focus on generating a more robust elective program beyond just Art, Music, and PE, we could offer students more options so that they are spread out a little more (possibly creating more manageable class sizes),” says Ms. LeSage. “I was so bummed to see the culinary programs move out of the high schools and into a centralized location (the Career Elevation and Technology Center); while I understand the reasoning behind this, it makes those courses less accessible to students who don’t live close to that centralized location (for Frederick students, they often have to sacrifice an extra block or time out of another class to accommodate for the travel time to Longmont).”