NEW YORK — New York Mayor Bill de Blasio announced last week that the city will invest $385 million to bring designated physical education (PE) space to all city schools by the year 2021.
The mayor’s office reported that approximately 200 of the city’s 1,629 schools do not currently have a gymnasium, and roughly 76 do not even have a designated PE space. As such, the first phase of the $385 million effort will prioritize those 76 schools to ensure students have access to physical education.
Over the next several months, both the Department of Education and the School Construction Authority (SCA) will work to find a variety of options at each school to bring physical education space to these students. That could include anything from constructing new gymnasiums to renovating schoolyards to converting or enhancing existing rooms into fitness areas. Existing auditoriums could also be repurposed to become “gymatoriums” or schools may lease space from community-based organizations, according to a statement. The SCA already identified 20 of the 76 prioritized schools as having outdoor space that can accommodate a gym addition, standalone gym or schoolyard renovation.
The mayor announced this Universal PE initiative at P.S. 81 in Ridgewood Queens, where the school will break ground on a new standalone gymnasium in 2018. Universal PE expands upon the mayor’s PE Works initiative, a multi-year $100 million investment launched in April 2016.
PE Works began as a pilot program in about 400 schools in the 2015-16 school year and included funding for 50 elementary schools to hire and retain a PE teacher. Under the program, and with the help of almost 500 new certified PE teachers hired for elementary schools that need ones, all elementary schools will meet the state’s PE requirements by June 2019, according to a statement.
While the Universal PE initiative is technically new, it helps the state fulfill a mandate that was originally passed in 1957, reported Crain’s New York Business. That legislation was passed mandating physical education for every student, but it continued to be ignored year after year — until now.