For Dillon Zehnder, PE is superfluous. Zehnder practices three days a week at the Beverly Hills Fencing Club, where he has been taking lessons since August. Most practice days, Zehnder comes home tired and famished after an hour and a half of lunging, parrying, and feinting.
Yet Zehnder still takes freshman PE, just as many other students involved in extracurricular sports do. Sophomore Alyssa Johnson competes on an all-star cheerleading squad, and junior Alexis Arancibia is a member of the CCHS girls’ varsity basketball team. Both took or are taking P.E. during the school day. For some, taking PE and playing a sport is perfectly acceptable, but for others, the double load rankles.
There are two ways to obtain PE credit at CCHS without completing a normal PE course. One is the Team Sports Elective: freshmen and sophomores on the track, cross country, soccer, lacrosse, softball, baseball, boys’ basketball, water polo, swim, tennis, cheerleading, girls’ volleyball, and football teams do not have to take PE I and PE II. However, teams must practice during sixth period in order to receive PE credit (a seventh period has also been added for sports such as cheer and softball). Some coaches cannot come to campus during school hours, so their teams do not receive credit. The members of the girls’ varsity basketball team, for example, begin practice at 4:30 and must take PE their freshman and sophomore years. Arancibia does not mind this, however. Practicing outside of school hours keeps her sixth period free for other classes.
The other way to obtain PE credit is Independent Study PE, which allows students to complete their PE requirement off campus in physical activities that in the past have included fencing, horseback riding, gymnastics, and dancing. However, the number of students in Independent Study PE is minuscule: this year only seven students are enrolled in the class. The requirements for taking Independent Study PE are rigorous: according to Culver City Board of Education policy, students must be ranked at the state, national, or international level in their sport, and must practice with a qualified instructor at least 10 hours a week.
“It has to do with being at the top in whatever sport the student is doing,” Assistant Principal for Curriculum and Guidance Lisa Michel said. Practicing ten hours a week does not guarantee a student the right to Independent Study credit. The school board requires official proof of ranking and often views videos of the students practicing to determine whether they are at a level to qualify. This policy is tied to state PE requirements, which mandate a certain amount of PE for all students.
Zehnder and Johnson understand the board policy, but question whether Independent Study credit should be based on level rather than amount of practice. They view their sports as physically demanding enough to substitute for PE. “You’re still moving around so much that you’re sweating bullets at the end of it and really hungry too,” Zehnder said of fencing. Johnson, who attempted to sign up for Independent Study PE last year but was told she didn’t train at a high enough level, said that she understood why she didn’t qualify. But she still believes that any student who practices multiple hours per week should be able to sign up for Independent Study. “People get credit for in-school sports without playing at the national level,” she said.