Fargo schools reduce graduation requirements, including PE credit – InForum

FARGO — High school students in Fargo will be required to take fewer physical education and elective course credits starting this fall, a move that has those teachers concerned.

Fargo Public Schools announced last week it will align itself with the state-mandated 22 credits for graduation instead of the district’s current 24-credit requirement.

The primary reason, announced by Associate Superintendent Robert Grosz in an online school district newsletter, is to give students more flexibility and align educational practices with the district’s strategic objectives.

Superintendent Rupak Gandhi said the administration, whose purview includes graduation requirements, made the decision.

The current graduation requirement for Fargo Public Schools includes one additional physical education credit and one extra elective course credit, both of which will go away starting in the 2024-2025 school year.

A half-credit of physical education will still be required, Gandhi said.

Brent Miller, one of four full-time physical education teachers at North High School, said a number of his counterparts across the district are nervous, anxious and upset about what the change could mean for their students and for their jobs.

While students can still take more physical education than what’s required, he said students who choose not to are often those who would benefit most.

He said kids today have a greater need for the mental, social and physical well-being that physical education classes can provide.

“I just hope they make that choice to continue to be part of what we offer,” Miller said.

He said Gandhi has assured physical education teachers they will still have jobs, even if demand for their classes drops.

Instead, Gandhi said teachers may be asked to align their skill sets with outcomes the district is seeking in its strategic plan, which includes the Choice Ready component that all students graduate with what they need to be successful.

Miller is part of a group of physical education teachers that will look at options, including creative ways of reaching out to students to convince them of the benefits of their classes.

“I’ve kind of chosen to look forward and try to see what we can do,” he said.

Miller teaches weight training classes at North, where students can transform themselves and build confidence.

He also runs a class where students learn community activities like golf, bowling, pickleball and frisbee golf. It’s one of the most sought after classes, Miller said, with four sections offered this school year.

“They get to be with their classmates and friend groups and try some things that maybe they’ve heard of… but maybe have not had a chance to experience,” he said.

Besides teaching, Miller is also the head football coach and assistant track coach at North High.

There are many others like him coaching other sports in the school district.

“We’re big parts of our schools, and we’re just hoping to be able to keep doing what we’ve been doing, or at least do what we need to do for our kids the best way we can,” Miller said.

Grant Kraft, president of the Fargo Education Association, expressed similar concerns at a recent school board meeting relating to an administration recommendation to combine strategic and operational plans into a singular document.

“Board members should have clarity of any unintended consequences approving this unified strategic plan might have, such as a reduction in certified physical education teachers over time,” Kraft said.

The board voted to postpone a vote on combining strategic and operational plans to its Tuesday, March 26 board meeting.

Nick Archuleta, president of North Dakota United, the statewide union for educators and public employees, said the organization doesn’t have an official position on Fargo Public Schools reducing its graduation requirements.

But he said physical education is important for a student’s academic success, especially given what research shows about teen obesity and

children feeling isolated.

“One would think that school districts would be embracing courses that combat those conditions rather than curtailing the availability of these beneficial courses,” Archuleta said in a statement.

While the changes in Fargo Public Schools won’t take effect until the next academic year, some students have already registered for their courses.

The district said those students and their parents are encouraged to speak with a school counselor as soon as possible to discuss how their course selections might be affected.

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