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Reports Say City Schools Not In Compliance With Laws For Phys Ed Programs

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Sugary bake sales and junk food in vending machines may be banned in city schools but when it comes to gym class, most students are not getting enough of a good thing, according to two new reports. NY1's Lindsey Christ filed the following report.

It's no secret that American kids need to lose weight. But while one out of every three children is overweight nationally, almost half of elementary age kids here weigh too much.

There are a lot of reasons why, but an issue with physical education classes could be one of them.

"More than half of the schools are not in compliance with the state law for physical education," said Dr. Sally Wong of the American Heart Association.

That's according to a new report by the American Heart Association, based on a survey of 272 city schools.

A second report, by the Women's City Club, reached the same conclusion: despite high-profile efforts to improve public health, city schools still have a long way to go before they're even following the law.

"Unfortunately, there are clear lapses where students are not being fairly provided a quality physical education curriculum," Wong said.

Schools are hampered in general by space, budget and staffing constraints, though compliance varies dramatically depending on the school.

"In one borough, class size ranged from as little as six students to 150 students," Wong said.

How much time should students spend in gym class? The American Heart Association recommends 30 minutes a day, but state standards only require daily gym for kindergarten through third graders. The standards for older students in New York is three days of physical education per week, and it seems that most aren't even getting that.

According to the survey, nearly six out of every 10 schools offer physical education just one to two days per week.

And when it comes to gym teachers, the Women's City Club report said they are also very unevenly distributed. It found that 825 teachers are assigned to teach gym at elementary schools, when there should be 1,174 to fulfill state requirements.

Yet in high schools, there seems to be a surplus. There are 1,138 teachers, when just 612 would be enough.

"The DOE must address the inequity of access to PE across the city, and must be transparent," said Amy Schwartz of the Women's City Club.

A spokesperson for the Department of Education said the numbers are misleading. She said that many elementary school students may not have gym teachers, but their regular teachers provide physical education. The DOE said it has been committed to student health and through a range of initiatives, it's moving in the right direction.

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