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MAKE-OVER OF PHYS ED TAKES IT OUT OF GYM

Gym class at Pioneer Central School is canceled for January. No choosing up sides for team dodge ball, no laps in the pool, no hoops on the basketball court.

High school students instead will take gym in the classroom at their rural school in Yorkshire, a Cattaraugus County community about 35 miles southeast of Buffalo.

This is not Revolt of the Couch Potatoes. And, no, the kids with the pocket protectors don't have the gym teachers tied up in the basement.

It's an attempt by Margaret Puzio, principal of the 1,076-student school, to make gym more interesting while meeting state standards for physical education.

Mrs. Puzio, a fitness walker, skier and bicyclist who admits that she found gym boring when she went to high school, said students still seemed bored in gym class.

"My observation kind of led me to believe there was a lack of student engagement in physical education classes," she said. "The students had rather apathetic feelings, and whenever participation took place, it seemed to be rather lackluster."

So why not make it interesting? Why not let the students help come up with gym classes that would be fun?

Mrs. Puzio put the idea before the Pioneer Board of Education this week and received approval to suspend physical education classes from Jan. 5 to Jan. 30.

Students will skip gym and instead meet in the classroom with their physical education teachers, school administrators and possibly some outside experts to come up with their own solutions.

"This is for the kids' benefit," she said. "Schools exist for kids."

A spokesman for the State Education Department said Pioneer's approach seems to be a first for New York.

Mrs. Puzio is uncertain what shape the new physical education curriculum will take.

"I hope we're going to have a sense of the students' input."

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