New Rule on Physical Education Credits Blindsides Wheeling Park High School Athletes

WHEELING — Some senior athletes graduating this spring at Wheeling Park High School must adjust their final semester schedules after learning athletic participation no longer counts as a required physical education credit.

Walt Saunders, assessment and federal programs director for Ohio County Schools, updated Ohio County Board of Education members on the policy change this week.

West Virginia students are required to have two physical education credits before graduating.

But as the West Virginia Department of Education has given local school districts more control over their own accreditation requirements, Ohio County Schools opted this year to permit two years of participation in band or sports as a credit in lieu of a second physical education class.

“It’s one of those cases when we were given local control, and we jumped on it, “ Saunders explained.

He said it wasn’t until August — just before the start of school — that the WVDE informed Ohio County Schools this change was not permissible.

The school district uses a 5.0 weighted grading scale, and it was deemed unfair to give the students a “K” or non-grade for physical education, Saunders explained.

“(A grade) has to be tied to a credit-bearing course,” he said. “Marching band is easy because it is tied to a course. Football, however … it’s kind of hard to give a grade for football. Does first string get an ‘A,’ and second string a ‘B?’ Based on the changes from the state, we had to come up with a solution.”

There were eight seniors affected. Among them was Saunders’ own son, cross-country standout Ronnie Saunders.

In the end, WVDE and Ohio County Schools officials discussed the issue, and students have three options to achieve the needed physical education credit.

They can register for an “integrated physical education” class based on a self-paced program already established at the school, Saunders said. The students would be permitted to complete physical education requirements on their own time.

“The kids could get a credit, and they wouldn’t have to schedule it,” Saunders said.

The second option is a more vigorous virtual physical education class available online from the state, he said. The program sets physical goals to be achieved by the student.

And third, the students could always schedule the Physical Education II class at the school if their schedules permit. That’s what Ronnie Saunders will do, according to his father.

“My son has decided to drop one of his two strings classes, and I’m all for it,” Saunders said.

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