SANTA FE, N.M. — School districts again can allow students to use marching band, JROTC and athletics in lieu of gym class.
Gov. Susana Martinez signed a bill Wednesday that reverses a Public Education Department position on the issue. The PED announced last fall that students could no longer use activities such as marching band as a substitute for a two-semester P.E. class required to graduate.
“The main thing was making sure marching band and ROTC (and athletics) counted toward P.E. credits and the other thing is not to change the rules in the middle of the game for students,” said Jason Harper, R-Rio Rancho. Harper co-sponsored the bill with Sen. Craig Brandt, also a Rio Rancho Republican.
The new law, which went into effect immediately, also will prevent the PED from changing students’ course requirements for graduation after they enter high school.
Some school officials were upset with PED’s stance and said it would harm seniors who were banking on their participation in several activities to count as P.E. credit. PED, in a Jan. 16 memo, told districts that seniors and some juniors could be grandfathered in under the old practice if districts applied for a waiver.
Some school officials and parents were still concerned, saying that some juniors and sophomores were dropping advanced placement and college-credit courses in order to take P.E.
“What this did was throw all these kids into a tailspin,” Brandt said.
Based on the response from parents, school officials and lawmakers, PED decided to support the bill, said Aimee Barabe, PED director of strategic outreach, in a statement to the Journal.
“We have taken (their) feedback into account and ultimately decided to support credits earned from marching band, ROTC and athletics as counting toward graduation requirements,” Barabe said.
Under the law, districts like Albuquerque Public Schools may continue to require students take a P.E. course.