An 8th grader makes a plea: Don't get rid of PE - Hawaii News Now - KGMB and KHNL

An 8th grader makes a plea: Don't get rid of PE

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SALT LAKE, OAHU (HawaiiNewsNow) -

Jaiden Gant's an eighth grader at Aliamanu Middle School, and one of her favorite classes is PE. 

"I like running and dodge ball. Dodge ball's really fun," she said.

But the school may temporarily shelve physical education class to focus on academics that need improvement instead.

Jaiden started a petition drive to try and keep that from happening. 

"We sit down at a desk for six hours and we need to get up and run and get our excess energy off," she said.

Physical education isn't required in Hawaii's public intermediate and middle schools. Principals decide whether it should be offered.

But exercise experts say that needs to change.

"It should be required. All of our children should have an opportunity to exercise and learn how to exercise. It's not just about movement. It's not just about activity," said Shelley Fey, of the Society of Health and Physical Educators.

The state Department of Education recognizes the health benefits of physical education but if test scores need improving -- like at Aliamanu -- academics take priority.

Meanwhile, Health Department officials acknowledge the difficulty of the issue, but say schools should be making room for P.E.

"So we know that students who are more physically active and more fit tend to have higher grades, less absenteeism, better focus in class and fewer discipline problems," said Jennifer Ryan, the Health Department's children and youth specialist.

The nation's new education act acknowledges the importance of physical education in all grades.

"It really needs to be integrated into the school setting," Fey said.

Jaiden wants to be a PE teacher someday. So far, she's collected 120 signatures on her petition. 

"Building healthy habits at a young age can help us when we're older," she said.

The DOE said if Aliamanu Middle's principal needs to temporarily table P.E., it would be next school year. The Board of Education is reviewing middle school graduation requirements that include health and P.E.

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