Meeting Their Needs

The Adaptive PE Class helps special needs students become more physically active


Savannah Drnec

Junior Dylan Waters laughs and claps as he and Sophomore Zoe Grumich play with bean bags. The two students generally work together during third period. The bean bags and other toys are things they are allowed to play with during their Adaptive PE Class, a class that has been on the books as been available to students but hasn’t had the enrollment or equipment to support it. “I work with Dylan, most of the time, but I also work with Hannah and I like developed relationships with like everybody in there so it’s really nice,” Hulbert said.

I like to watch and see how their faces light upend how excited they are whenever they see their friends in class”

— Zoey Hulbert


The multi-purpose room lights are dimmed and the sounds of laughter and words of encouragement from mentors and TA’s echo through the hallways. The students in the class are playing their designated game of badminton, the rare game of the class, with their mentor and TA friends that the course helped them develop a relationship with. This is the Adaptive PE class at it’s finest.  

The Adaptive Physical Education class is a year-long physical education class for the special needs students attending Francis Howell Central that helps with the development of all students who participate.

Francis Howell Central’s principal, Dr. Sonny Arnel, is in high spirits about the Adaptive PE Class. 

“I think it’s important for us to offer courses that meet the passions, the intellectual curiosity and the development of every kid on our campus, so we need a spectrum of classes to make sure we meet the needs, and the curiosity and the passion of all of our kids. So it definitely is another class that is an attempt to do that to meet the needs of our kiddos,” Dr. Arnel said. 

Dr. Arnel gives the athletic and PE department credit for starting the Adaptive PE class this year.

“With the Adaptive PE class, that’s been around forever, but to have classes like that, make it or not make it based on the number of kids that take them,” Dr. Arnel said. 

The number of kids to take this class for the 2019 to 2020 school year exceeded the amount needed and because of that, it needed to be to be ran by a gym teacher or two.

“The Adaptive PE class was kind of spearheaded this year by Dr. Burkemper and Mr. Hansen and Mrs. Denny. They worked really hard with Mr. Radigan, the PE department chair, and Mr. Hansen that had brought equipment in for our alternative learning department.” Dr. Arnel said. “And the teachers, Mrs. Denny and Dr. Burkemper really have a passion to meet the needs of our kids.”

The teachers are not the only ones involved with the class; mentors and teachers assistants also get involved and are given credit where it’s due.

“I love what the teachers are doing for our kids and we also have our mentors and TA’s that push in there too, and they’re actually another element of support for our kids,” Dr. Arnel said.

Mrs.. Courtney Jilek has noticed how the SPED kids have been working hard in the SPED class after joining the Adaptive PE Class due to the ongoing support and encouragement being given to them in that course.

“I think that them being in a class where they have mentors that are encouraging them and supporting them, has them be a lot more physically active so a lot of the exercises and things that they do, they try a lot harder because they’re being encouraged by their peers,” Mrs. Jilek said.

She appreciates that a program like this creates a new atmosphere for every pupil in the school, allowing them to make friends with other students.

“I think it builds community for [our] students to be able to see people they know in the hallway and have friends, just like every other student and getting to know people and building relationships and having friendships is a really important part of high school and so for all students to have that I think it’s really important for a school community,” Mrs. Jilek said. 

Mrs. Jilek encourages TAs and mentors to join this class for the pure contentedness of the students in the Adaptive PE class, teachers and themselves.

“They do have quite a few mentors in there [and] that’s a good way to get involved. It’s a lot of fun for our students to interact and build friendships with typically developing peers [and so] they love being in that class and if there are openings for mentors, it’s there third hour,” Mrs. Jilek said. 

The teacher of the class Dr. Michelle Burkemper, is hopeful for the class and how it helps the SPED students throughout not only high school but life in general with making friends and adapt to the adjoining area.

“They’re working with regular ed kids, as well as other kids with disabilities. So they’re able to perform and work in different areas, whether it be in the multi purpose room, the big gym, small gym, or outside,” Dr. Burkemper said.

To keep the kids involved and enjoying the course, Dr. Burkemper changes the activities on a day-to-day basis.

“So they might do stations where they’re bowling, or basketball or ladders, sometimes we do some badminton. Just depends on the day,” Dr. Burkemper said. 

Dr. Burkemper is ecstatic about how the class has many kids with and without disabilities are working together in the class to create a community with no boundaries.

“It allows the students to be included and it allows for A-Plus tutors to help them as well, so we’re including all of the kids in the school versus separating them and segregating them,” Dr. Burkemper said.