Wellness program on rocky terrain

By Jesse Zhang
Published: March 2009

Following the March 2 release of Superintendent Jeffrey Young’s fiscal 2009-2010 proposed budget plan for the Newton Public Schools, South students can expect major cuts and program changes in the Wellness Department.

After listening to several concerned students and parents, the School Committee voted on March 19 to drop its original propositions to limit juniors and seniors to 26 blocks and to eliminate classes with low enrollments.

The budget proposition will change wellness graduation requirements from seven to five credits and reduce the wellness staff.

Both North and South’s wellness departments met with Young on March 18 to discuss the implications of potential cuts.

South’s wellness faculty touted for the benefits of a seven credit wellness program, stating that its program was nationally recognized.

“[The Wellness Department] has evolved amazingly in the past six years that I’ve been here, wellness teacher Michelle Coppola said.

Coppola, a third generation Newton resident who has taught wellness at South for six years, worries about her students and the pressures they face.

“I just know the kind of overachieving mentality that I had growing up here, and I just see it so much more now than what it was 20 years ago, Coppola said. “Wellness is a really important part of creating the whole person–spiritually, socially, and emotionally.

Coppola created the yoga and Pilate’s elective in response to student requests.
Wellness teacher Alan Rotatori feels that cuts will dramatically change how the Wellness Department can offer their program and will force them to choose which lessons are the most important.

“I feel that it’s not necessary that a majority of the cuts come from one area of the school, Rotatori said. “I understand we’re going to have cuts. But not to the extent that is coming from our section.

Current graduation requirements call for eight semesters of English and seven semesters of wellness.

Rotatori did not find it fair to compare subject classes that meet four times a week with wellness classes that meet only twice.

Coppola feels that even with the current wellness program students are investing too little time in health and wellness in comparison to the time they invest in academics. She fears the consequences of not having any physical or spiritual resources given all the mental stress students are experiencing.

“[Wellness class] is a place for people to stop and breathe throughout the day, Coppola said.

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