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Education Board Repeals Phys Ed Requirement

November 19, 1996

MALDEN, Mass. (AP) _ The state board of education voted Monday to stop requiring students to take 60 hours of gym a year, a move that makes it easier for public schools to make room for academics.

Fitness advocates quickly panned the board’s 5-2 vote to allow individual school districts to set their own standards for physical education classes.

``School districts know the needs of their schools better than anyone in the state,″ said board member Alexis Vagianos.

Others fear a flabby fallout.

``I think it would be a grave mistake when I look at the obesity we see in our students and the lack of physical strength,″ said board Chairman John Silber.

Silber said students engaged in gym are less likely to smoke, watch television and do other harmful activities.

State law still requires that gym classes be offered, but students in grades 1-10 will no longer have to take 60 hours a year to graduate, and some experts are worried that local boards may drop gym altogether.

``The decline or elimination of mandatory physical education is a troubling trend, but it’s very widespread″ added Mary Ann Hill, spokeswoman for the President’s Council on Physical Fitness and Sports.

A 1993 survey found that 46 states required schools to teach physical education, but an increasing number were challenging or watering down the mandate.

Massachusetts Education Commissioner Robert Antonucci said stricter academic requirements by 2000 necessitated ways to give schools more time for studies.

Gov. William F. Weld said he was comfortable with the repeal, as long as some requirements remained for gym classes.

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