Beyond the Classroom: Freshman Health and Ethnic Education


P.E. class starts their weekly run. Courtesy of Michelle Nguyen

In previous years, the credit requirements for physical education (P.E.) and health has continuously been a stress for students, especially juniors. Up until the 2022-2023 school year, the total number of credits needed for P.E. has been 22.5 and 2.5 for health. Starting from the next school year, however, this will change.

As of right now, students must take two years and a quarter of P.E., as well as a quarter of health. Due to inconveniences to their schedules, most students typically take the extra quarter of P.E. and the health class over the summer so that it does not take up a semester of their junior year. Next year, not only will the credit requirement change, so will the timing of the classes. This change resolves to affect incoming freshmen and the classes that will come after.

Starting with the class of 2027, students in the freshman year will have to take a year-long P.E. class; that will not change. However, on top of that, they are required to take a semester’s worth of health and a semester of ethnic studies. Vice Principal Mr. Niczewicz explains, “There is a new class that the incoming freshmen and every class after that are [going to] have to take called ‘Ethnic Studies.’ That is a semester-long class that is being taught by our History/Social Science Department here.” This means that by their junior year, students will have completed the credit requirements for P.E., health, and the newly-added ethnic studies. Current students are not affected by the new changes. Current freshmen, sophomores, and juniors are not required to take the ethnic studies class next year. In fact, as of right now, the ethnic studies course will not be available to students who are not incoming freshmen. 

Since current freshmen, sophomores, and juniors are not able to take the ethnic studies class next year, there is debate regarding the importance and significance of the said class. On one hand, it must be a subject important enough for it to be added as a required course by the school board. On the other hand, it is not required or accessible to upperclassmen. This could be confusing, as some students might feel as if not having the knowledge taught in the new class could negatively affect them. Regarding this concern, Mr. Niczewicz states, “If they’re interested in it, then I encourage them to talk to any of the teachers that are [going to] be teaching it. I’m sure they’re gonna be willing to provide what is covered in the class and they can do a little research on their own if they’re interested.” However, it must be noted why the district decided on this. Sophomore Snikitha Karumudi pointed out, “It’s kind of hard for the district [because] there’s a lot of kids and the staff have a lot to do, especially because it’s a last-minute notice. Most 11th and 12th graders have already picked their classes based on what they [want to] do, and requiring this new class onto them can be unfair.” With sophomores, most have planned out their next two years already, so adding this new class could mess with their plans. However, with freshmen, it is easier to bring in something new because they are freshly entering high school.

With the addition of a new class, a noteworthy question arises: do students now have to complete more credits in order to graduate? Fortunately, the number of credits required remains at 230, though the number of credits for some categories have been adjusted. P.E. credits needed will be decreased from 22.5 to 20. On the other hand, health will be increased from 2.5 to 5. The requirements for ethnic studies will also be five credits. Due to this change, the number of credits for the electives category will be dropped from 70 to 65. 

The new required class will also change a typical freshman schedule. As of right now, most freshmen take six classes unless they participated in the elective lottery and were granted a seventh class. However, since freshmen will be required to take the extra health/ethnic studies class, they would have to have seven classes. As seven classes can be a lot to freshmen, they may choose to drop a class, likely an elective. It is for this reason that the number of elective credits dropped.

This new addition of ethnic studies can be confusing, rest assured that it does not affect current students; it will only be mandated on freshmen starting next year. Although the exact reason why the new class was added or why health will be taught freshman year instead of junior year has not been disclosed, it looks to be  an excellent learning opportunity for future Wilcox students.