INDIANA: School directors approve changes to gym, health classes
March 11, 2014 11:00 AM
by CHAUNCEY ROSS

A twice-delayed proposal for laying out the health and gym class offerings for Indiana Area Senior High School students has been approved by the school board.

The curriculum plan offered by board member Brian Petersen, chairman of the board’s Academic and Extracurricular Committee, will provide nine weeks of health and nine weeks of physical education for ninth-, 10th- and 11th-grade students and allow seniors to choose a half a year of health or phys ed to complete their required two credits of health and phys ed.

District Superintendent Dale Kirsch said the phys-ed teachers at Horace Mann and Eisenhower elementary schools — which will take in only fourth- and fifth-grade students beginning in September — would be called upon to spend part of their day at the senior high so all the classes would be available.

The board had put off voting on Feb. 10 and Feb. 24 because of objections to the original proposal: a semester of phys-ed in ninth and 10th grade and a semester of health in 11th grade, plus a semester of phys-ed for either 11th or 12th grade. It also called for shifting components of the ninth-grade health course into a life-skills class called “On Your Own.”

The phys-ed option and the half-semester of health for freshmen satisfied enough board members and the plan was approved on an 8 to 1 vote.

Director Diana Paccapaniccia voted no, repeating her objection to the reduction of ninth-grade health. Following the meeting, she said the past weekend of alcohol-fueled partying near the Indiana University of Pennsylvania campus was evidence that substance-abuse education is critical in ninth grade, when students are at a critical age in their growth.

“When I saw that … I thought we’re doing something wrong, and we really need to push alcohol and drug education early on,” Paccapaniccia said. “I still wish it was a full semester.”

The board opened the meeting with a standing salute to Dave Woodall, the girls’ basketball coach who reached 300 career victories in January.

High School Principal Wade McElheny presented a plaque to Woodall, commemorating the achievement, and, along with Athletic Director Patrick Snyder, praised his dedication to student athletes.

“I’ve been fortunate to see Dave as a coach since 1996 grow a program that is more than about the Ws and Ls,” McElheny said. “You know that it is a championship program through and through.”

“I think he’s the best coach in the WPIAL,” Snyder said. “He’s the head coach, in the fall he does the junior high, he does skills and drills all year long, he organizes summer camps … and with Otto (Peterson), they are just a great team and are great role models.”

Woodall has coached 32 years in the district, including 18 seasons as the girls’ varsity head coach.

“You get to go to a lot of schools and talk to a lot of coaches, and I’ve said it before, Indiana is a special place. … We’re so fortunate to get the quality of the girls who play basketball, talent wise, but great kids as well,” Woodall said. “It’s a blessing to coach those kids. It never gets old.”

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