City schools have launched several health initiatives to combat childhood obesity over the past few years, but the most basic component - gym class - may have been overlooked. NY1's Lindsey Christ filed the following report.
Mayor Michael Bloomberg cut the sweets out of parent bake sales and the soda out of school vending machines. Chancellor Dennis Walcott put salad bars in every cafeteria and goes on runs with high school students.
"We have a major commitment to physical education," Walcott said.
But what about gym class?
"There are state requirements around physical education, and the Department of Education's responsibility is to make sure that its students are meeting those requirements," said Jennifer Swayne of New York Lawyers for Public Interest. "As far as we know, it doesn't appear that they are."
State standards require daily gym class in kindergarten through third grade, while older students should have physical education at least three days a week. However, when City Comptroller John Liu audited gym class at 31 elementary schools, not a single one was in compliance. Some principals didn't even know what they had to provide, like certified gym teachers.
It's not just teachers. There's also the perennial city issue of space. Some schools don't even a gym, like one high school building on the edge of SoHo. Others have more students than the gym space can accommodate.
New York Lawyers for the Public Interest went to the state Supreme Court this week to try to get the city to disclose how many schools are actually in compliance.
NY1 has also been trying, unsuccessfully, to get hard data.
After the City Council requested school-by-school information on gym class last year, the DOE asked principals to report whether their schools were complying with state law. The DOE also said it would start to check whether schools actually scheduled the right amount of gym class. NY1 asked the DOE for data on both. We're still waiting.
The department is also required to file a citywide physical education plan with the state, which is supposed to be updated every seven years, but the state says it hadn't been revised since 1982. That is, until last fall, when the city submitted a new draft.
NY1 asked to see a copy of that, but state officials said they can't release something that's still just a draft.