NYC finally will comply with 1957 mandate for physical education in schools, de Blasio says

Physical Education has been a required subject in New York State schools for 60 years. 

But in all that time, at hundreds of city schools, there has been no place for kids to throw a ball, run a relay -- or even move to music. 

In some city schools, gym is held in hallways. In others, in auditoriums or cafeterias. Some don't have phys ed at all.

"This is the law governing our school system. It's state law that has been systematically ignored since it was passed in 1957," Mayor de Blasio says 

The mayor says the city will take a major step to finally comply with that law by building, leasing or retrofitting space for gym classes at 200 public schools over the next four years. 

"We're focusing right away on the schools that have literally no phys ed capcity," he says. 

As part of their election-year budget deal Friday night, the mayor and City Council approved $105 million for gym space, the final piece of funding needed to foot the nearly $400 million bill to create gym space for all the schools that do not have it..

The mayor touted the plan at PS 81 in Ridgewood, Queens - a school that currently uses a small auditorium for physical education. Construction will begin on a new gymnasium next year. 

"We will finally have universal phyical education in the city. Universal," he said. 

But providing the space for the classes will not guarantee that every child will have access to phys ed. 

An audit by city Comproller Scott Stringer two years ago found 32 percent of city schools did not have a certified gym teacher on staff, as the law requires. The schools chancellor, Carmen Farina, says the city is working on that too.. 

"To have a gym without a high liscenced P.E. teacher is only half the job. So one of the things we've been doing is letting the universities know that we're going to need more licensed P.E. teachers."

But she did not say the city Education Department will require every principal to have the necessary gym teachers on staff. Although physical education instruction is required by the state, city princpals face no penalty for failing to fully comply with that mandate. 

The city is also starting to install air conditioner units at schools this week to meet its goal of providing AC's in all classrooms by the next school year.

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