On Jan. 26, the Hollister School District Board of Trustees approved the purchase of a program intended to help students with physical and social-emotional education during ongoing distance learning. The $18,000 program by Sports for Learning will be utilized by the district for the remainder of the 2020-21 school year.
Director of Student Services Kip Ward said the program includes three, 20-minute video lessons per week for three grade level groups. Videos are categorized by grades—transitional kindergarten to second grade, third to fifth grade, and sixth to eighth grade.
“It’s a program that incorporates social-emotional learning with an exercise warmup in the beginning and an exercise finisher at the end,” Ward said.
While the contract with Sports for Learning was on the consent agenda—where multiple agenda items are approved with a single vote—trustee Stephen Kain pulled it out for discussion because he said he wanted to clarify misconceptions about the program. He said the program was a result of the district’s union, the Hollister Elementary School Teachers Association (HESTA), voicing concern over students’ lack of physical activity because they spend their academic time in front of computers.
“I resent, a little bit, the idea that these are just videos shown to the kids,” Kain said. “These aren’t just videos being shown to the kids. These are well-thought-out exercise programs as well as the social-emotional issues that go along with what they are dealing with. So it’s not just like a P.E. teacher getting and telling you to jump around and exercise.”
Kain said the program, which he recommended to Ward, was an additional tool for school sites to use during distance learning and that it wasn’t replacing anything, particularly physical education teachers.
Out of the five trustees, only Kain had seen the video programs before voting to approve it. However, he said three district principals had reviewed the program and expressed support for it.
In a public comment letter read by Superintendent Diego Ochoa, HESTA President Angela Higgins wrote that the teachers union was concerned Hollister School District was going to spend $18,000 on something staff was qualified to do.
“We can save the district money and return the P.E. teachers to provide instruction at the schools,” Higgins wrote. “Purchasing this program sends the message to them that they are not valued members of our district. I don’t believe that you believe that. I ask tonight that you give your appreciation for their service more than just talk. Show them what they do is important.”
Kain said he supported the program because it was an additional tool for teachers to use, but if they weren’t planning on using it then there was no point in buying it.
“This was something that I thought they wanted,” Kain said. “If I’m wrong, then fine. We won’t do it.”
Trustees considered delaying approving the contract for a month to give time for the board, teachers and administration to review the program, but Kain voiced concern of waiting 30 days to provide something that can help a student’s social-emotional state.
The program can be accessed by anyone in the district and students at any time, Ochoa said. It has Spanish subtitles for Spanish-speaking students and their families. With no existing plan for how the program would be implemented into the current curriculum, trustees said each school site could decide how to use it to best serve their student population.
If the district were to go to in-person instruction before the end of the semester, board President Jan Grist said she could see the program being used by specialized classes.
“I can see in a scenario where that might be used in a special ed class,” Grist said. “I can see it being used as an elective class. I can see other uses for them.”
Grist said it was untrue that the board was looking to replace P.E. teachers with a video.
“There is no way to replace a P.E teacher. That is not what this program is meant to do. If we have offended or given the idea that we are even thinking of this program to replace a P.E. teacher with a social-emotional exercise, I would think that our physical education teachers would think that we know a little bit more than that.”
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