As the start of the 2020-21 school year approached, many students at Berkeley High School (BHS) were faced with the realization that their fall sports seasons would be cancelled due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Coaches and athletes alike found themselves grappling with city through state-level restrictions, and most teams have not yet found a clear solution. The postponement and cancellation of fall sports has led to another issue for students: how can they complete their mandatory Physical Education (PE) credits?
The answer is students must be flexible with their athletic plans. The BHS Athletics program published a Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) sheet for the 2020-21 school year, with details about how sports will happen during the pandemic. The document states that the question “What about PE credit?” is one the administration must answer. However, Tammy Rose, the Academic Choice (AC) vice principal at BHS, shared that the administration is “still working on details about PE credits for students.” Because it’s so difficult to predict what the next few months will look like in terms of the coronavirus pandemic, vaccines, and social distancing requirements, the administration hasn’t yet been able to provide a clear answer about PE credits. However, they have provided students who would normally participate in fall sports with several alternative credit options.
Rose explained that the administration is “actively working on the PE waiver options,” which now include a virtual exercise program with the Berkeley YMCA. In previous years, the YMCA has provided BHS students with the opportunity to complete PE credits through a combination of group exercise classes and independent hours at their Downtown Berkeley branch. After the YMCA shut down in April, administrators were forced to get creative with their programming. This semester, students will need to complete a minimum of 60 “fitness hours” to earn a passing grade and receive their PE credits. An email forwarded to students by BHS Counselor Maribel Quiroz states that this “alternative PE program” is designed to “help students obtain the values and habits that lead to lifelong fitness.” The goal is for students to “achieve a healthier lifestyle,” beyond participating in their virtual fitness classes and self-guided workouts.
Aside from the YMCA waiver program, students are still allowed to receive credit for club sports and school-provided PE classes. The BHS Athletics FAQ document states that structured athletic programs and competitive team sports are eligible for PE credit, but not a “dance group you started with your friends, personal trainer, [or] working out in your neighborhood gym.” The program must include five hours of structured activities per week, and at least 60 hours for the semester. BHS is also offering several PE classes with distanced curriculum designed for Zoom, from a zero-period fitness course to the well-loved Afro-Haitian dance class.
Although sports and other physical activities look very different this year, BHS students still have a range of options to choose from when completing their PE credits. Because of this, administration has no intention of removing the four-semester PE credit requirement for graduation. This may adjust as we approach the intended beginning of the “fall” season, whose sports are slated to begin in December. However, all factors permitting, BHS will hopefully be able to move forward with in-person athletics.