Despite opposition from physical education teachers at Mountain View and Los Altos high schools, the district's board of trustees unanimously approved the change to district bylaws at its June 17 meeting.
At two prior meetings of the Mountain View-Los Altos Union High School District's board, P.E. instructors spoke out against the proposal, which was brought before the board by Gaye Heck, co-president of the Los Altos High School Instrumental Music Boosters, and Bill Heye, president of the Mountain View High School Instrumental Music Parents Association.
While representatives from both schools' P.E. departments readily conceded that marching band and color guard require a high degree of physicality, they insisted the activities did not offer the same educational component students get by taking a P.E. class.
In weeks before the vote, Barbara Kaufman, physical education department coordinator and teacher at MVHS, told the Voice she felt the proposal was somewhat insulting. "I get really upset when people ... think they are providing physical education, when they are just providing physical activity," Kaufman said.
Heck and Heye made it clear that they were not trying to demean P.E. teachers with their proposal. They said changing the district policy to allow marching band and color guard participants to get P.E. credit will free those students' schedules to take more electives. They could even take P.E. if they wanted.
Heck and Heye outlined a path by which a marching band or color guard instructor might cover the same physical education curriculum that students would be getting if they were in a P.E. class.
No P.E. teachers came to the June 17 meeting to challenge the proposal and the motion passed 4-0. Trustee Joe Mitchner was absent.
The new policy still requires freshman to take a P.E. course, according to Brigitte Saraff, MVLA's associate superintendent of educational services. By California law, the district is required to expose students to eight physical education concepts.
Saraff said the way it will likely work for those students who choose to take marching band or color guard and opt out of two subsequent semesters of P.E., is that those students will be exposed to five of the eight P.E. concepts during their freshman year, and either the marching band or color guard instructor will cover the remaining three concepts over the course of two semesters of the activity.
The passage of the policy puts marching band and color guard in line with other extra curricular physical activities, such as cheerleading, dance and sports — all of which count for P.E. credit.
Saraff also noted during informational hearings on the proposed policy change that it used to be that all sports and other highly physical extra curricular activities would count toward P.E. credits. Then, during the late 2000s, the state's education code forbid local school districts from allowing teachers with non-P.E. credentials from teaching physical education. Saraff said she was unsure why the authority was taken away from school districts.
The law changed back in early 2012, and local districts were once again given authority to allow non-P.E. teachers to teach classes for P.E. credit.