Policy revisions that would allow for independent study to also include physical education were discussed at the last Santa Monica-Malibu Unified School District school board meeting before the end of the 2006-07 fiscal year.

The change to Policy 6158 would allow for students enrolled in independent study to also receive credit for physical education (P.E.), as long as they meet the minimum required instructional minutes and that the state standards of physical education are met for the specific grade level, said superintendent Dianne Talarico.

Independent study is an optional alternative instructional strategy for students in kindergarten through 12th and adult education to fulfill graduation requirements.

It offers a means of “individualizing the educational plan for students whose needs may be met best through study outside of the regular classroom setting.”

The district’s independent study option is “substantially equivalent in quality and quantity to classroom instruction, thus enabling students enrolled in independent study to complete the district’s adopted course of study within the customary time frame,” according to current policy.

But the district and board are considering revising the policy to ensure that students are also “physically fit and leading active lives and wishes to provide the students with expanded opportunities for access to alternative ways of meeting the physical education requirements.”

State Education Codes 51210 and 51210.1 require not less than 200 minutes of P.E. each ten school days in first to eighth grades and not less than 400 minutes each ten school days in ninth to 12th grades.

There has been debate about whether or not the district should allow elementary school students to get independent study P.E. credits — or if it’s something that should be limited to middle and high school students, said district chief academic officer Chiung-Sally Chou.

“That’s something I’m working with a group on and contemplating on this particular piece,” Chou said.

At the meeting, board member Jose Escarce said he was puzzled because the P.E. “requirement for high school is much more extensive.”

Escarce explained that high school P.E. requires 480 minutes a week and that the independent study P.E. policy being discussed at the meeting required only 400 minutes every two weeks, which seemed inconsistent.

Chou explained that the policy that was being discussed was “just a generic policy that is based on education code” and can be increased.

“This is just sort of letting people know that we can let people do independent study P.E.,” Chou said. “Malibu High School has a pretty good sample and we’re looking at their process.”

Also, there has never before been an independent study P.E. policy for the district.

“Right now, the schools are dealing with it individualy, but we really need to have a policy,” said Chou, who pointed out that a uniform, standardized process of dealing with independent study P.E. would be helpful.

Talarico agreed that developing some kind of guiding policy would be advantageous also.

In the future, a new independent study P.E. policy will come back before the board as an action item.