Freshman Blake Maner prepares for PE next year with Coach Sommerville. Photo: Alexis Wilkins

Currently in the United States, one in three adults is obese. The average weight of adults has increased by 26 pounds since the 1950s, according to the Center of Disease Control (CDC). This obesity epidemic brings health tolls: high blood pressure, type 2 diabetes, heart disease and strokes.

Obesity, defined by the CDC as having a Body Mass Index of 30 or higher, affects 17% of adolescents in the U.S., which is triple the number from 1971. Nearly 32% of children and adolescents are either overweight or obese. Because of this statistic, Pace Academy coaches and physical education teachers have decided to take action.

Beginning with the 2017-18 school year, upper school students will be required to take one semester of physical education (P.E.) every year of high school. “We don’t want our students to be prone to these health risks and this program will help tremendously,” said P.E. teacher and cross country coach Jolie Cunningham. “Having only a one semester requirement for a sport in all four years of high school is not beneficial. We are requiring students to have P.E. one semester a year regardless of whether or not they play a sport.”

This addition to the upper school curriculum has created heated arguments among the students, as one free period will be replaced with P.E. for a whole semester each year. “Honestly, I’m so glad that I am graduating before this is put into place,” said senior Taylor Upchurch. “I still suffer from PTSD from middle school run days and the pacer test.”

The coaches are not all in agreement, either. “I don’t want my team to be worn out before practice even starts,” said varsity wrestling coach Mark Sommerville. But some coaches think that P.E. will be a good tool to strengthen their athletes. “As long as my boys take P.E. second semester after football season, I’m totally on board,” said varsity football coach Chris Slade. “That way they won’t slack off in the off season.”

Students caught skipping P.E. will be given the same punishment as skipping study hall: 5 citations. “I know that students won’t take this as seriously,” said Upper School Dean of Students Gus Whyte. “So we have to really be strict with the students if they try to skip. There will be no frolicking around this.”