PE cutbacks send children an unhealthy message

Another Voice

Another school year is coming to a close.

Seniors are suffering senioritis as they prepare for graduation. Underclassmen are planning their summers. Teachers are beginning to plan for next year. Yet, this is not a typical school year. Oregon has made national headlines because of a funding shortfall in public education.

Hood River County schools, like many schools, have to cut millions of dollars to survive. A local tax option will be placed in front of voters in September. The option is a chance to reduce the amount of cuts our schools will have to face. If the local tax option does not pass there will be no qualified and experienced physical education specialists at our elementary schools.

What does this mean? As of January 2004, elementary physical education specialists will lose their jobs, leaving over 1,000 elementary students without their physical education teachers. Hood River County elementary students will be feeling the effects for a lifetime. Consider these facts:

Nearly 40 percent of children ages 5-8 have health conditions that significantly increase their risk for early heart disease, obesity, high blood pressure, inactive lifestyles, and more.

Obesity rates in children have doubled over the last two decades — 14 percent of children are now obese.

Early on-set for cardiovascular disease, cancer, type II diabetes, osteoporosis, and atrophy of muscle are directly related to inactivity during adolescence.

On the average, first through fourth graders watch more than 2 hours of television on school days, and close to 3.5 hours on weekend days. In fact, according to a recent Hood River County teen survey over 50 percent of our students spend more than three hours a day watching TV, playing video games and surfing the Internet.

Obesity, a risk factor of sedentary lifestyles, is estimated to cost $117 billion in medical expenses yearly.

The top three leading causes of death in the United States are all correlated with inactivity.

The quality physical education programs offered at Hood River County elementary schools can help reverse these statistics in our community. By developing motor skills at an early age we can provide the tools for our children to be physically active for a lifetime.

An active student reaps many physical benefits; improved cardiovascular fitness, stronger bones, weight regulation, lowered risks for heart disease, cancer, diabetes, and obesity. A daily physical education program provides more than just physical benefits. Children improve mentally, psychologically, and socially. Scientific evidence supports claims that physical education programs help to improve student interest in learning, academic performance, and judgement.

Physical education promotes self-discipline, encourages goal setting, improves self-confidence and self-esteem, provides an outlet for stress, strengthens peer relationships, and reduces depression. We are not talking about recess or playing dodge ball in the gym. We are talking about teaching children to become active young adults.

Imagine if our children lost all these benefits. We already are the most inactive and obese nation in the world. What message do you think we would be sending our children if we cut our elementary physical education teachers?

The time is now to lend a hand. We need everyone to help. Let your friends and neighbors know we need them to vote yes for the local option. We need them to value physical education and the benefits our children reap. As a community we can come together and overcome budget issues to promote healthy lifestyles for our kids.

If you have questions or concerns please contact a physical education specialist at any Hood River County school.


This column was submitted by the teachers in the Physical Education Department of the Hood River County School District.

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Parkdale third graders sing "12 Disaster Days of Christmas"

Welcome to your sing-able Christmas gift list. What follows is an emergency rendition of “12 Days of Christmas” – for outfitting your home or car in case of snow storm, earthquake, flood or other emergency. Read it as a simple list, or sing it to the tune of “12 Days” – you know, as in “ … and a partridge in a pear tree…” Not to make light of it, but the song is a familiar framework for a set of gift ideas that you could consider gathering together, even if the recipient already owns items such as a bunch of coats, tire chains and flashlights. Stores throughout the Gorge are stocked up on all these items. Buying all 12 days might be prohibitive, but here are three ideas for checking any of the dozen off your list (notations follow, 1-12.) The gift items needed to stay warm, dry and safe are also coded to suggest items in your abode (A) in your car (C) or both (B). 12 Gallons of Water (A) 11 Family meals (B) 10 Cans of propane (A) 9 Hygiene bags (B) 8 Packs of batteries (A) 7 Spare coats (B) 6 Bright red flares (C) 5 Cozy blankets (B) 4 Tire chains (C) 3 Flashlights (B) 2 cell phone chargers (B) 1 And a crush-proof first aid kit (B) Price ranges? Here’s a few quotes for days Three, Two, Four and Nine: n A family gift of flashlights (three will run $15-30, Hood River Supply, Tum-A-Lum) n Cell phone chargers (two will run $30-60) n Tire chains (basic set, $30, Les Schwab, returnable if unused for the winter) n Family meals ($100 or so should cover the basics for three or four reasonably well-fed days) n The home kit should be kept in a handy place near an exit, and remember that water needs to be replenished every few months. If you have a solid first aid kit already, switch out the gift idea with “and-a-sto-o-u-t- tub-for it-all …” Otherwise, it’s a case of assembling your home or car kits and making sure all members of the family know what the resources are and how to use them (ie flares and propane). Emergency situations are at worst life-threatening, at best deeply uncomfortable if you and your family are left without power for an extended period, or traveling and find yourself in a situation where you need to wait out a storm, lengthy traffic delay, or other crisis. Notes on the 12 gift ideas: 12 – Gallons of water: that’s one per person in a four-member family to last for three days, the recommended minimum to be prepared for utility outages. 11 – Easy-open packaged goods, energy bars, dried food and nuts are good things to include for nutrition. Think of what your family of four needs for three days to stay fortified and hydrated (see number 12). Can-opener also recommended 10 – If you have a propane camping stove, keep extra fuel handy. 9 – Hygiene bags: put packaged moistened towelettes, toilet paper, and plastic ties in large garbage bags (for personal sanitation) Resource list courtesy of Hood River County Emergency Management, Barbara Ayers, manager/ 541-386-1213. The county also reminds residents to Get a Kit, Make A Plan to connect your family if separated, and Stay Informed. See to opt-in for citizen alerts. Enlarge

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