Mayor Bill de Blasio, Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito, Assembly Member Cathy Nolan and Schools Chancellor Carmen Fariña today announced a Universal Physical Education (PE) initiative to provide all schools with a designated PE space by 2021. The initiative will focus on around 200 schools, out of a total of 1,629, that do not currently have a gymnasium. The first phase will focus on 76 schools that do not have any designated PE space and will cost approximately $385 million over the next four years in Capital funding, including $105.5 million in new Capital funding as part of the recently-announced Adopted Budget for Fiscal Year 2018. As part of the budget agreement, the City will also invest an additional $1.8 million for some of the schools to lease nearby PE space.
Over the next several months, the DOE and the School Construction Authority (SCA) will work with individual schools to explore a variety of options at each school to ensure all students have access to space for PE. These options will include constructing new gymnasiums, renovating schoolyards, converting or enhancing existing rooms into fitness areas, converting auditoriums into “gymatoriums”, or leasing PE space from community-based organizations.
Of the 76 schools across the City that do not currently have any designated PE space, the SCA has already identified 20 that have outdoor space that can accommodate a new gym addition, a standalone gym or a schoolyard renovation. DOE and the SCA are in the process of conducting space assessments at the remaining 56 schools.
“The lack of physical education classes in our schools has been a concern of mine for over 20 years,” said Mayor Bill de Blasio. “I could not be more proud to be dedicating resources to ensure that every school will have an adequate PE space by 2021. Incorporating physical activity into the day isn’t just the healthy thing for our young people, it is the law and one that was ignored for far too long.”
“Every student needs quality physical education to stay healthy and remain focused during the school day. Not only are we committing to providing all students with PE space, but we are also strengthening physical education curricula with more trained PE instructors and new educational resources. This is part of equity and excellence in all our schools, and setting students up for success,” said Schools Chancellor Carmen Fariña.
The Mayor and Chancellor announced Universal PE at P.S. 81 in Ridgewood Queens, where in 2018, the school will break ground on a new, stand-alone gymnasium. Starting next school year, the school will also have a new, full-time certified PE instructor. Additionally, starting this week, air conditioning installations will begin to address the nearly 80% of classrooms that lack units. This will be completed by the end of summer 2017 and all classes will have air conditioning for the 2017-18 school year.
Universal PE will build upon the administration’s PE Works initiative, an unprecedented, multi-year, $100 million investment launched in April 2016 that envisions PE as a foundational component of our schools, and seeks to revitalize this subject area for all students. PE Works began as a pilot in approximately 400 schools in the 2015-16 school year, and included jumpstart funding for 50 elementary schools without a certified PE teacher to hire and retain one.
The PE Works team is developing multi-year action plans in collaboration with school staff to address barriers to PE, including space constraints. Based on the action plans, the PE Works team will work with every district school to implement the instructional, operational and family engagement steps that schools can take to improve and sustain conditions for PE to thrive. PE Works staff is also developing a K-12 PE Scope and Sequence so that teachers, administrators, and parents have a shared understanding of the benchmarks of good PE instruction for students at all grades. By June 2019, with the help of nearly 500 new certified PE teachers hired for elementary schools that need one, all elementary schools are expected to meet State PE requirements.
Of the 76 schools included in the first phase of Universal PE, 30 are in Brooklyn, 13 are in the Bronx, 8 are in Manhattan, 16 are in Queens and 8 are in Staten Island. While all schools are required to provide PE, not all schools have PE space. Universal PE, coupled with PE Works, will ensure that all students have access to a PE space, resources and instructors who can provide them with the rigorous PE instruction they need and deserve.
As part of the City’s larger effort to enhance learning environments for all students, Mayor de Blasio, Chancellor Fariña and the City Council also recently announced funding to provide every classroom in New York City with air conditioning. The City will dedicate a total of $28.75 million over the next five years to purchase and install air conditioning units in all classrooms by 2022, providing thousands of students with a more safe and comfortable learning environment.
“Being more active throughout the day has been shown to improve students’ concentration and performance in class. With the Universal PE Initiative, all students across the five boroughs will now have access to gyms – which will provide students with more opportunities to exercise and play,” said New York City Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito. “I am proud to support this initiative, and look forward to continuing to work to promote healthy behaviors across New York City.”
“Comprehensive space for physical education in our public schools has been a distant dream for too long in our great city” said Assemblywoman Catherine Nolan, chair of the NYS Assembly Education Committee. “My district has lacked adequate space for years, despite the best efforts of parents, teachers and principals. My sincerest thanks to Mayor Bill de Blasio, Chancellor Carmen Farina and SCA President Lorraine Grillo for working to make the health of our city’s children a priority in the budget. I am thrilled that schools like PS81, which until relatively recently had outdoor trailers, a coal burning heating system and other vestiges of its 19th century construction, will finally be upgraded for the children of today. Equitable NYS funding for our neediest schools and kids continues to be a priority for speaker Carl Heastie and our Assembly majority,” said Assembly Member Cathy Nolan. “Additionally, mayoral control of our city’s school system has been accountable in ways that prior governance systems were not, those systems allowed the outright neglect of schools like ps81 for too long. Mayoral control is righting that balance. Upgrading P. S. 81 and schools like it has been a goal of mine since I became an Assembly Member and then chair of this committee. Today’s announcement is a fulfillment of much effort and work, including legislation I introduced to include more physical education in our schools. I am very grateful to Mayor de Blasio, himself a former public school parent, for this initiative.”
“Some believe physical education, the arts, and so many other vital components of education are ‘extras,’ but there’s a growing body of evidence that they’re essential,” said Manhattan Borough President Gale A. Brewer. “Schools without spaces for physical activity are incomplete, and I thank the mayor and chancellor for recognizing this and committing to act on it.”
“I commend the Mayor and the Chancellor regarding Universal Physical Education. This initiative will end a long standing inequality of how our students are taught and experience physical education in the New York City Public School System. I look forward to working with this administration to address schools that lack adequate space in my district, so that children have the space and proper physical education instruction,” said Assembly Member Michael Miller. “For decades public school students dealt with stuffy hot class rooms in the spring and fall months. Department of Education’s investment in air conditioners will go a long way to for a comfortable learning environment for all.”
“Investing in physical education will give all public school students access to a well-rounded education,” said NYC Council Education Committee Chairperson Daniel Dromm. “Physical education classes are an important component of every child’s school experience. Our children need appropriate spaces for these classes, and this initiative provides just that. I applaud this exciting development and will continue to work with the administration to keep our students healthy.”
“School is not just an opportunity to prepare students for a lifetime of academic success, it is also the best time to provide our young people with a robust physical education,” said Council Member Stephen Levin. “This is only possible if our schools have the appropriate space and resources to conduct the robust physical education programming our students deserve. I applaud the administration’s commitment to the current and future health of our students.”
“In the Bronx, we’re making great headway in together finding ways to live healthier lives, and providing our young people with opportunities to stay active while at school is another step in the right direction,” said Council Member Rafael Salamanca. “The City’s commitment to universal PE and other resources for PE facilities allows us to move one step closer to building a healthier Bronx.”
“The Universal Physical Education initiative returns physical activity to it’s proper place in our schools,” said Council of School Supervisors and Administrators President Ernest Logan. “Education is about developing the whole child, mind and body. This is a wonderful opportunity to expose more of our children to the joys and long term benefits of regular physical activity.”