June 16, 2024

Future schedule flexibility would enhance new PE class

Straight Shots

I wrote an article published April 19 about a new physical education class at Creston Community High School designed to bring weight lifting and speed/agility training into the classroom.

The concept has been well-received throughout the athletic department, because it takes that type of training off the shoulders of coaches in the various sports, with the teaching instead by PE certified instructors experienced in weight room training programs. And, perhaps more importantly, the time requirements at school for many athletes will drop, because lifting sessions have often been before school or after practice.

While those are steps forward for athletics, some other issues came to light after publication of the article. The confusing part for me was how much time elapsed from the first presentation to students about the new class on Feb. 6 in the auditorium, and the outcry by some against the class several weeks later when the article appeared. The school board acted on the class addition presented by Principal Bill Messerole on April 15.

So, by the time I finally printed the report in the News Advertiser, I assumed the affected parties had met and ironed out any problems or concerns. I know for a fact that the principal and band director had conversations about it.

However, during the weekend after publication there were many social media comments about it. I learned of some disappointment from those in the fine arts community about the scheduling of the class and what effects it could have down the road on band participation, in particular.

The class is scheduled first block, with boys and girls meeting on either the “A” or “B” days. Band class is also scheduled first block, following early-morning rehearsals held during marching band season. It’s been that way for 25 of the 29 years the band has operated under the direction of Mike Peters.

It’s one of the best high school bands in the state, following a strong Creston band tradition that dates back many years when it flourished under directors such as Kurt Schwarck, John Keller and Dick Bauman. It’s a band that produced world-renowned drummer John “JR” Robinson, who appeared April 30 at Hoyt Sherman Place with the great David Foster and Katharine Mcphee.

The new PE class, meanwhile, is designed to produce young people who can become elite in their chosen activities, as well. Both programs are in the pursuit of excellence.

On the one hand, school administrators say new classes are introduced regularly, commonly creating a need for students to make choices. For example, sometimes they choose early-morning classes at Southwestern Community College that are only offered during that first block, particularly in vocation-oriented areas of study like construction and pre-nursing.

I can see both sides of this matter, actually. The band is in the process of trying to rebuild from the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic. Kids now in grades 9-12 were in grades 5-8 during that period, when many dropped band. The high school band went from 85 kids to 60, and is now building back up to the 75 range.

However, large numbers of student-athletes encouraged to take the PE athletic enhancement class all at once, opposite the band’s period, is seen as threatening to this rebuild. Not so much just for next year, but in the long term view.

For years, band directors have tried to fight the mindset that athletes can’t do band, and band kids can’t do sports. There have been many examples of kids excelling in both, including football players like Will Deranleau, Alan Smith, Avery Fuller and Kal Barber marching with the band at halftime in their football gear.

The concern is, the appearance of a direct time conflict could feed the either/or syndrome.

The perfect world answer, of course, is to spread out the weight room classes over the course of the entire school day with a PE teacher dedicated to that function, such as what has happened at Glenwood and ADM, schools slightly larger than Creston. Messerole doesn’t have the staff flexibility to assign someone to such a position. Those considered to teach it next year have other class duties later in the day in areas such as special education, Spanish and other PE classes.

So, there are a number of factors in play here as the plan moves forward next fall.

Personally, I want both athletics and music to continue to flourish in Creston. The community has been proud of the accomplishments statewide in both sports and fine arts.

Hopefully, down the road budgets and staffing arrangements can allow for the creation of a dedicated instructor for this athletic class during multiple times of the day, so there are fewer potential conflicts with the band class period.

That would be a win-win.

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Contact the writer:

Email: malachy.lp@gmail.com

Twitter: @larrypeterson

Larry Peterson

LARRY PETERSON

Former senior feature writer at Creston News Advertiser and columnist. Previous positions include sports editor for many years and assistant editor. Also a middle school basketball coach in Creston.