Find Your PE Leader and "Demand a Seat at the Table"

In 2015, when the United States passed ESSA (Every Student Succeeds Act), it was the intention of our government officials to provide students with a well-rounded education, with the “purpose of providing all students access to an enriched curriculum and educational experience.”

Nearly six years later, after students have been practicing distance learning for a full year, the government passed funding to open schools and address learning loss. There is no greater and important learning loss taking place than the loss of our children’s health and wellness. Students are spending more time on screens during distance learning and less time exercising. Many are not getting the recommended 60 minutes of moderate to vigorous activity each day recommended by the CDC.

A recent Wall Street Journal article highlights how concerning the nations pandemic is for our children’s physical and mental health. Your district will be receiving funding to ensure a safe reopening of schools and to address learning loss. For the well-being of our students, it is crucial that Health and Physical Education have a seat at the table when funding decisions are being made. 

We recently interviewed a Director of Physical Education and After School programs. He is a strong advocate for Health and PE and was willing to share his experience and advice with us. He recently had success providing take home equipment packs for his student using CARES federal funding. “During a pandemic, with all the stressors and obstacles our families face, and with the importance of mental and physical health at the forefront, how can we NOT send equipment home? It would be unconscionable.”

Take a look at the interview below for inspiration on how you can advocate for HPE in your district.

Interview Highlights

Q&A with a Director of Physical Education and After School

Q: Which department within your district was responsible for distributing funding?

A: “The district Business Services department in collaboration with our district superintendent and our Assistant Superintendent of Instructional Programs.”

Q: How you were able to access federal funding?

A: “I spoke directly with my superintendent. I did create an informal proposal for “take home” physical education equipment packs and included which grade levels would receive the packs. The plan also included how those packs would be organized, delivered to sites, and distributed to the students.”

Q: Were you given specific requirements for purchasing?

A: “I was given guidance on the total cost of this proposal – an amount “not to exceed.” I was also given a deadline to have the final quote submitted for school board approval and guidance on the latest date in which we could receive the equipment in order to use CARES funding to pay for it.”

Q: How did your PE program use CARES funding to address the challenges of teaching PE?

A: “We created take-home PE packs with basic equipment pieces that we felt could be used in a variety of instructional units. We wanted to use equipment with flexible applications, including being used outside or inside, in open space or restricted space, alone or with a family member. Over the summer, my entire PE department met with me via Zoom to choose our “priority standards” and determine what we felt were the essential learning outcomes for our students in a distance learning environment and with the pandemic as the overriding stressor impacting our daily interactions with our students. This funding enabled us to achieve our goal and see our summer planning come to fruition.”

Q: What advice do you have for PE teachers who are interested in securing future federal funding?

A: “Up your advocacy game. There are resources everywhere that support quality, daily PE as an essential component of a well-rounded education. There is research that shows the multiple positive impacts of physical health, movement, and fitness on student achievement and mental health. So you must have a PE leader step up and demand a seat at the table when funding decisions are made. You must create a visible, impactful PE program that others outside your content area want to support. Be noisy, be informed, be visible, and be persistent. Federal law (ESSA) lists PE as an element of a well-rounded education for students. That means you can use money that you didn’t have access to before. Get to the table and advocate for what you need. Our students need quality PE, so show why your program is essential, and then advocate for the funding you need. Even without CARES act funding, public school districts get federal funding through ESSA. And PE is entitled to their fair share of it. So do your homework, and then get to the table.”

Q: Is there anything else you would like to share with us regarding your experience?

A: “It was amazing. The collaboration from my district leadership, through my department, our MOT department, our school site leaders and their teams, and including our partnership with GOPHER, allowed over 6,000 students to receive quality PE equipment – as well as quality PE instruction – during a very difficult time. It was also all done on a very tight timeline. Every time I think about how this all came together, I smile. The kids deserved it, and we all came through for them. I grew up in the town I teach in. So this is personal for me. Great stuff!”

Q: What was your experience ordering from Gopher?

A: “Excellent. GOPHER is very willing to meet my specific order and shipping needs, including the delivery deadline. Andy is particularly good at following through and keeping the lines of communication flowing.”

Q: How were the individual equipment packs distributed?

A: “The packs are distributed by the school site in conjunction with other student material disbursement events. Our MOT staff picks them up from a central location and then delivers them to the sites after my department sorts them.”

Q: How have My PE Packs changed activity for your students?

A: “It opens the doors for our teachers to plan a greater variety of lessons with greater equity and access to the curriculum for our students.  We can be assured that each of our students has access to the same equipment.  Immensely important.”

Q: What’s your opinion of the equipment selection and quality of equipment?

A: “Outstanding as always!  GOPHER is the best, and your lifetime guarantee is essential.”

Q: Are you happy with your purchase? Do you feel it made a difference with your PE programs during the pandemic?

A: During a pandemic, with all the stressors and obstacles our families face, and with the importance of mental and physical health at the forefront, how can we NOT send equipment home? It would be unconscionable.  Thank you GOPHER for helping us deliver quality, daily physical education.

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