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Copyright 2014 Ventura County Star
All Rights Reserved
Ventura County Star (California)

Twice a week, 30 Simi Valley High School students ditch their gym clothes, leave the sports field and head to a skate park. For 90 minutes, they practice tricks on a quarter pipe and call it P.E.

"It's really fun," said Karen Arredondo, 15. "I like the rush you get going down the ramps."

"Fun" is a word physical education teacher Dean Bradshaw doesn't hear often when students talk about P.E.

"It's hard to get kids excited," he said.

Starting this semester, the high school began letting students take skateboarding for P.E. credit. To enroll, they must have received a grade of C or better during ninth-grade P.E. and pass the state physical education exam.

"We want ninth-graders to have something to shoot for," Principal Steve Pietrolungo said. "We held the carrot for them."

The idea came up during a P.E. teachers' meeting. Pietrolungo liked the idea but thought it would be a hard sell for district leaders. So he jokingly pitched an outlandish idea for a parachuting class. After that joke, a skateboarding class would be easier to swallow.

District leaders eventually approved the plan to partner with Skatelab, an indoor skate park just down the street. Skateboarding joins weightlifting, yoga and bowling as alternative P.E. classes at Simi Valley High School.

It's not a novel idea. Schools elsewhere, including in Fillmore and across the country, have offered similar skateboarding classes.

The Simi Valley students include inexperienced skaters like Karen, who had never skated but was curious from watching her nephew. Some are like Gage Boyle, 16, a sponsored skater who practically grew up at Skatelab and competes across the country. It's not unusual for Gage to arrive at the skate park at 10 a.m. and leave at 7 p.m.

"When I was 5 or 6, my dad told me about Skatelab. He brought me here," Gage said. "It was different than anything I was doing. So I started practicing."

For students like Gage, the skateboarding class sounds too good to be true. Most students in the class have never taken an interest in baseball, basketball, football or other traditional school sports.

Tricia Rivera, 16, one of two girls in the class, is a self-described hater of P.E. but has always wanted to be a skater.

"I used to be a big Tony Hawk fan. I used to watch him on TV and think, 'I want to be him,' " she said.

She's now a fan of Ryan Sheckler, a professional skateboarder.

Because all the students want to be in the skateboarding class, Bradshaw said there's no problems with absences or tardiness.

"This is as good as any workout in other P.E. classes," Bradshaw said.

The hope is for the class to grow next semester.

"We hear eighth-graders already talking about it," Bradshaw said.




March 2, 2014


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