Adaptive PE Leaders course implemented

Administration adds new PE class, hopes to provide help to students with special needs

Myrna Cross, InDepth Editor

A new gym class, the Adaptive PE Leaders course, is being implemented in the 2023-2024 school year. The goal of the course is to give opportunities to “LIFE” physical education classes, which stands for “Learning Independence For Everyday”, essentially students with the most severe and profound special needs. 

Typically, these students are put in stand-alone classes and work with the same students and staff every single day. With this course, these students will be integrated with general education PE, giving leadership opportunities to the general education students where they will learn how to make modifications and accommodations for the “LIFE” students. This class will be a way for students to work with and learn from each other. 

For the past two to three years, Physical Welfare Division Chair Kurt Johns, PE teachers Cassandra Niego and Scott Walker, Special Education Department Chair Melissa Moore, and others have been integral in the development of this class. By looking at other schools and seeing how they made this adaptive leaders class work, they have compiled enough research and information to implement this course next year, Special Education Division Chair Kristine Vins said. 

“This course will allow both our general education students and our special education students to come together and understand the needs of each other,” Johns said. “It will allow our students to be more empathetic towards one another and build connections. Our student body won’t be as separated, and we can start to foster a sense of belonging and a positive school culture around working with students with disabilities.” 

The adaptive PE leaders course is going to be its own class that will have its own teacher with a background in special education services, Johns said. The general education students will be working independently, learning how to meet the needs of their peers, whether it’s physical or cognitive limitations. After about six to seven weeks of that training period, they will be integrated with the “LIFE” PE class, where they will be partnered with one or two students and work with them on a regular basis through a variety of different activities. 

“This class is going to bring a change in the community and more recognizable faces,” Niego said. “I can already envision some high-fives and hellos throughout the school day.” 

What really inspired her to push for the installment of this course was a triathlon that students used to do at SC many years ago. One student that stuck out to her in particular was a student in a wheelchair, who kept asking when it was her turn, Niego said. This inspired her to reach out to organizations with adaptive equipment and provide a triathlon experience for the “LIFE” students. Spirits were high and the outcome was amazing, so she began to research other schools and their adaptive leaders program to make this course a reality. 

While the logistics and small details of this course are still being worked out, students can look forward to this opportunity of integrating general education and special education students, and making the school a happier and more inclusive environment for the “LIFE” students, Niego said.