New York City will invest $385 million over the next four years to provide all city schools with a designated space for physical education, Mayor Bill de Blasio announced on Monday along with Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito, Assemblywoman Cathy Nolan and schools Chancellor Carmen Fariña.
The initiative aims to provide all schools with proper PE space by 2021, according to a press release from the mayor’s office, and will affect around 200 schools that lack a gymnasium, out of 1,629 total schools that offer phys ed classes. In its first phase, the program will focus on 76 schools located throughout the city that do not have any designated PE space.
“The lack of physical education classes in our schools has been a concern of mine for over 20 years,” de Blasio said in the release. “I could not be more proud to be dedicating resources to ensure that every school will have an adequate PE space by 2021.”
The Department of Education and the School Construction Authority will explore multiple alternatives for each of the 76 schools’ PE space. According to the release, alternatives include building new gymnasiums, renovating schoolyards, adapting rooms into fitness areas, converting auditoriums into “gymatoriums,” or leasing space from organizations in the area.
Out of the first 76 schools, 30 are located in Brooklyn, 13 in the Bronx, eight in Manhattan, 16 in Queens, and another eight in Staten Island.
P.S. 81 in Ridgewood, Queens, where the mayor and chancellor made the announcement, is one of the schools. In 2018, it will begin construction on a new gymnasium and will have a full-time certified PE instructor starting in the fall.
“My district has lacked adequate space for years, despite the best efforts of parents, teachers and principals,” said Assemblywoman Catherine Nolan, chair of the Assembly’s education committee. “I am thrilled that schools like P.S. 81, which until relatively recently had outdoor trailers, a coal-burning heating system and other vestiges of its 19th century construction, will finally be upgraded for the children of today.”
According to the press release, Universal PE is building on PE Works, an initiative announced in April 2016 that looks to improve physical education and access to it within New York City. Both efforts follow criticism in recent years that city schools are failing to provide students with adequate PE time to meet state standards.
Correction: This story has been updated to clarify that Mark-Viverito was not in attendance at the event on Monday, but still participated in the announcement.