COVID-19 pandemic forces new way of physical education at Botetourt County high school

Back to School

DALEVILLE, Va. (WFXR) — Students are required to take physical education classes in order to graduate. However, because of the coronavirus pandemic, these classes look very different at Lord Botetourt High School and many other schools.

Students notice one of the major changes before they step foot inside a gymnasium: they do not have an allotted time to change into their gym class attire. In addition, locker rooms are off-limits since there are no possibilities for everyone to social distance.

Teachers like Candace Underwood are asking students to show up to school in clothes they are willing to exercise in.

Furthermore, inside the gyms at the high school, everyone must be at least 10 feet apart. If they are any closer, they must wear a face covering.

Underwood says because of COVID-19, the focus for her classes will be on individual activities like fitness, exercise, yoga, golf, and disc golf since there are strict rules on contact sports.

She will also try to hold class outside as often as possible.

Students cannot share equipment and anything they use must be sanitized after each usage.

Underwood says they are all trying to keep a positive attitude toward the adjustments and that begins with her.

“If I came in doom and gloom and just like, ‘Oh, this is going to be bad,’ then that’s the way the kids are going to feed off of me. So, I feel like I owe it to them to make it as good as it can be and be as positive as we can be,” said Underwood. “It is going to be different, but it’s going to be okay. I feel like if I can portray that to them, then they’re going to feed off of that. They’re going to feel more comfortable being here and they’re going to enjoy the time they’re with me.”

Candace Underwood giving instructions during her first gym class of the 2020-2021 school year. She has been a physical education and health teacher for more than 20 years.

At Lord Botetourt High School, each physical education teacher has less students in their classes in the midst of the pandemic.

In the past, there could be nearly 30 students in one gym class. Now, the average is between nine and 10 students per class.

Students show up to the school for in-person learning twice a week. However, during the three days they learn from home, they are still required to participate in PE classes.

Teachers are coming up with creative ways for students to participate in PE classes from home and confirming students are actually completing those assignments.

Some teachers are filming live and recorded workout videos — including yoga and kickboxing — for students to reference through “Google Meets.”

One Lord Botetourt High School teacher films live and recorded yoga sessions
for students to join and reference while they learn from home.

If they log on, their attendance can be documented or they can film themselves doing the exercises to show to their teachers the next time they have in-person class.

Other options include students filling out log sheets in “Google Forms” of exercises they are completing.

In addition, Underwood is asking her students to download fitness apps on their phones that can track their heart rates, as well as request screenshots from those taking her classes.

Another virtual course includes kickboxing.

The new way of teaching is forcing everyone to think outside the box.

“We’re changing the way we think. It’s changing the way we teach. That’s not always a bad thing,” Underwood said. “It’s causing us to be very creative and come up with new games we never would have played before. We just want them up and moving. Not sitting at home and just kind of lounging around. Any way they can show us they’re moving, that’s what we’re working toward.”

Underwood says everyone is learning as they go and experimenting with new ideas to guarantee students and teachers get the most out of this new manner of physical education.

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