Dance being offered as a physical education (PE) credit has been something special at Reagan that allows students who may not typically think to join dance to express themselves and often find a loving community while also partaking in intense physical activity.
Now, because of a decision from the North Carolina Department of Public Instruction (NCDPI) regarding the PE requirements for graduation, this option is being taken away for one year of PE requirements.
The NCDPI created a combined PE 1/Health course that is worth one credit, recommended to be taken by freshmen, and is a state graduation requirement.
In addition to graduation requirements from the state, each county can name their own requirements. Winston Salem/Forsyth County Schools (WSFCS) has the Life Management Skills course requirement in addition to the state’s Health course requirement.
Both Health and Life Management Skills should be paired with a PE course, and, until now, each course counted as a half credit.
It was also the decision of WSFCS to allow dance to fulfill both the state and the local PE course requirements. However, now with the new course required by NCDPI, dance teachers are not able to teach this course.
In order to teach the Health course, one must be specially certified. PE teachers are certified for this while dance teachers are not, so dance cannot be substituted for PE.
For the local PE course requirement, dance will still be available as a substitute for PE 2 and paired with a Life Management Skills course to create a one credit course.
One big change that this will cause is the disappearance of Dance 1A and Dance 1B. Now, there will only be a Dance 1 that will be every other day for a semester paired with a Life Management Skills class.
In order to combat a significant drop in the number of dance students at Reagan, rising freshmen should sign up for the PE 2/Life Skills Management course, with Dance 1 instead of PE. Then, as sophomores, students must choose to possibly forfeit an arts elective in order to take the PE 1/Health course.
“This change has caused students to choose between arts classes,” said Molly Harwell, one of Reagan’s two dance teachers. “But honestly, we have such a strong program, we are confident that it will sustain. I do not think it will affect morale or the strong community we have built.”
According to Harwell, freshmen make up 50% of the dance class population. Next year that percentage is expected to decrease because of the timing of the state decision.
Not only did the state make all of these changes that could hurt dance departments across the state, they also made these changes while students were already beginning to register for classes for the 2021-2022 school year.
Because of this, the information about taking the Life Management Skills course freshman year and the Health course sophomore year was not available to many rising freshmen. Counselors were instructed to automatically enroll all freshmen in the PE 1/Health course.
Luckily, through these challenging times for our arts department there has been a lot of support from the school, especially principal Brad Royal, who understands the importance of the dance classes and culture at Reagan.
“It’s my hope that with our recognition that dance is an extremely vital part of our school, it’s in our DNA, that we will find ways to have our feeder schools to still encourage dance for the ninth grade in addition to recognizing that you still have to get the PE 1/Health requirement at some point,” Royal said.
While Reagan’s dance department has been proactive in addressing the issues raised by this change in PE requirements, not all departments across the state, or even the county, may have done the same.
Their decision has the potential to limit and hurt many dance departments across the state when really they should be encouraged.
At least at Reagan, it is known that dance provides much more physical activity than PE courses. It is time for the NCDPI to reevaluate their requirements for PE so that dance can be accepted as a PE requirement throughout the state.