Should schools be too cool for pools?

San Francisco public school students, weighted down with the requirement of learning to swim before they can graduate high school, could see that mandate and others lifted from their load.

The City’s school board recently agreed unanimously to eliminate drivers education as a requirement for a diploma. Now, student trustees Nestor Reyes and Jason Siu say they’re combing through the class schedule to find other outdated requirements that might stand between students and their diplomas.

“We’ll definitely look at others that perhaps can be removed so we can give our schools more flexibility,” Siu said, adding that he’s exploring the possibility of allowing students to fulfill their career education requirement, a half-semester course that partnered with drivers education, through internships rather than class time.

In another example, the district has required for decades that students learn how to swim, even though none of the high schools currently have a functioning pool, forcing students to trek to public pools, spokeswoman Gentle Blythe said.

“I don’t know if there are other requirements we have that are inconsistent, and my guess is yes, there are,” trustee Norman Yee said, referring to aquatics. “It’s those types of things we really need to look for.”

San Francisco also requires a semester-long health course.

The California Department of Education’s statewide requirements — including three years of English, two years of math, two years of science, three years of social studies and two years of physical education — have intentionally been kept to a minimum to let districts set their own requirements, according to Joe Radding, a consultant with the state agency.

Many districts have nixed drivers ed, and some have also done away with rudimentary computer courses.

“School boards, partly at the urging of students, realize that students are well beyond that — so why take up room in the schedule?” Radding said.

However, trustee Jill Wynn cautioned against removing such courses from the roster altogether once they’re no longer required.

“We need to look at the equity issue,” Wynns said during the discussion before the vote to eliminate drivers ed. “We know that access to driver’s licenses, for some students, is very serious.”

bwinegarner@sfexaminer.com

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