School district retains wellness policy while looking to still update

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After a review of a student wellness policy drew backlash from parents and staff members, the Whitefish School Board last week voted to revert back to an older policy regarding the issue. The district says it intends to craft a new policy by the fall.

The board last December decided to hold off on approving proposed changes to the district’s student wellness policy, after concerns were raised about whether loosening requirements for physical education teachers opened more options to the district in hiring or put students at greater risk of injury with the potential for less specialized teachers.

On March 12 the board unanimously re-adopted the 2016 wellness policy that was in place before any changes had been made to the revised 2017 policy.

Under the 2016 policy, the district mandates all physical education classes be taught by a certified physical education teacher. A certified teacher has completed more dedicated courses concerning topics like physiology, anatomy and biomechanics and can teach grades kindergarten through 12.

The proposed changes would’ve required classes to be taught following the Montana School Accreditation Standards and Procedures instead, which is not limited to certified physical education teachers.

District Superintendent Heather Davis Schmidt said the rewritten policy the board was considering encompassed too many different things — including student and staff wellness, recess and nutrition guidelines and hiring practices — and was inconsistent with other policies in the way it was written.

Davis Schmidt said the discussion will return to the wellness committee and administration with the hope of getting a new proposal to the board policy committee by October.

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