All Marlborough girls must complete six Physical Education requirements by the time they graduate. Requirements can be fulfilled by taking Marlborough P.E. classes, by playing on a Marlborough team and participating in its accompanying J period, by completing a Special Studies class, or by receiving a P.E. exemption. We at the UltraViolet believe that the P.E. exemption system is an important way to allow students to complete their credits, and we appreciate that the P.E. department offers a way for students to practice physical fitness outside of school and receive credit for their work. That being said, we also believe that the system is not being used to its full potential and prevents some students from earning the credit they deserve. The staff feels that not only would greater flexibility be consistent with the standards of the P.E. department, it would allow more students to achieve the department’s goal of physical well-being.
In order to receive an exemption, a student must submit a petition (a one-page document outlining the sport, the coach’s name and the training schedule) to her Division Director and the Physical Education Department Head. In addition, she must submit a letter from her coach that gives details of the program and training schedule. To fulfill the exemption, a student must complete seven hours of her sport per week for a full semester. The coach must also provide quarterly written evaluations to the School, informing it of the athlete’s progress. Although we agree that receiving this proof from coaches is necessary to ensure that students are doing the work they say they are, we believe that certain additional guidelines make exemptions unfairly difficult to obtain.
First, in order to receive credit, athletes must participate on Marlborough’s team if the sport is offered by the School. This regulation is an incentive to keep strong athletes in Marlborough’s athletic department, and while maintaining strong athletics is a valuable goal, we believe that this rule is unfair to those who do not want to play for Marlborough teams. Perhaps the student is playing outside of school because she cannot meet the requirements of Marlborough’s team, or because she prefers her team to Marlborough’s. Whatever the reason, if students really do not want to play for a School team, they will not be able to get the exemption, they will take Marlborough P.E. classes, and the School will still have lost a strong athlete. It seems, then, that this regulation does not benefit either party.
Second, the athlete must complete the necessary seven hours per week in the same sport. For example, if a student participates in four hours of club swimming and four hours of an outside tennis team each week, she will not be able to receive an exemption. This rule seems rather arbitrary. Why should the School discriminate between different sports? If the student is receiving qualified instruction in physical activity and fitness, no matter the sport, aren’t they conforming to the expectations of the P.E. department? Allowing more than one sport would require more paperwork, but as it is the students and coaches who must complete the three required, one-page documents, it seems that this change would place proportionally more work on the students than on the department.
Finally, we feel that the department should reconsider the necessity of the seven-hour per week requirement. Although the time commitment of playing on a Marlborough team often greatly exceeds seven hours, Marlborough P.E. classes take up at most three hours and five minutes per week. If outside credit is expected to conform to the guidelines of Marlborough-sanctioned P.E. classes, it seems only fair that the minimum amount of time spent per week correspond with that of Marlborough classes. If the department is unwilling to contemplate this suggestion, perhaps it can consider copying the guidelines given to the Instrumental Ensemble program. Just as one year of participation in the Ensemble constitutes one arts credit, perhaps one year of participating in outside sports for four hours per week could constitute one P.E. credit.
We applaud the athletics department for providing P.E. exemptions, since they have afforded many students the opportunity to receive credit for sports played outside of school. However, we strongly encourage the department to consider making these suggested changes to the exemption policy, in order to more fairly include those student athletes unable to receive much-deserved credit under the current system.