ARHS revised curriculum changes and 2/28 guidance talk for sophomore parents

Right: Next year’s back to school shopping list for ARHS students will include sneakers for required phys ed courses. (Image posted to Flickr by Magnus D)

Yesterday, Principal Tom Mead of Algonquin Regional High School sent out a notice to families. His letter shared an updated plan on curriculum requirements for next year.

In January, the school sprung news of curriculum changes effective next year. The changes were in response to Department of Education instructions that each grade receive physical education.

Parents publicly criticized plan details. Before February break, Principal Tom Mead promised to develop a revised plan that addressed their concerns about the “short notice”.

The new plan lays out the physical education requirements per grade for the following three school years. It gives some flexibility to sophomores and juniors whose past curriculum choices were based on different expectations.

Current sophomores can take the senior year’s semester of fitness during their junior year. (Leaving a slot for a full year course in their senior year.)

Next year’s requirements also includes this concession for current sophomores and juniors:

For those students of the classes of 2015 and 2016 who cannot fit a PE class into their annual schedule (all 14 semesters taken by classes or approved activities for credit; no study halls), they may substitute a fitness program equivalent in time to the Senior Fitness course, and approved in advance by the school administration. This course must be completed within the school year, and be similar in scope and purpose to the senior fitness class. A grading rubric will be employed, with 2.5 credits earned for a passing grade, and that grade will be given at the College Prep (CP) level. The school will not assume the cost for this program. There are no waivers for MIAA athletics, ARHS club sports, or private club sports or teams.

For freshmen and future classes, the plan remains the same as previously shared. There will be a full semester of phys ed taught in each grade, 5-days/week.

Previously, some parents pointed out that the DOE doesn’t require that phys ed be taught as a full 5-day/week course. In his letter, Principal Mead defends the plan by explaining the importance of physical education.

Mead refers to a study on teen’s high stress and anxiety.  He then writes:

Our workload is growing. A break in the school day, to rejuvenate, to refresh, and to recreate in an organized way with schoolmates is one measure, among many others, to counter the stress of academics and social pressures.

A Guidance presentation for parents of sophomores will be held at the school on Friday, February 28 at 7:30 am.

Click here to see the new plan. You can read Mead’s full  letter to families below: 

To the parents and students of the classes of 2015, 2016, and 2017:

Below is the plan to transition from the current Health and Physical Education courses to a structured program of health and fitness that is in compliance with state law, and consistent with the spirit of DOE/DESE directives. We feel this plan addresses the major concerns of most students and parents raised in forums and in communications.

To a great extent, the transition plan alleviates the regrettable short notice of this change, particularly for the classes of 2015 and 2016. The lack of compliance of Algonquin with the state in regard to M.G.L. Chapter 71, Section 3 has been known for many years, certainly as long as I have been principal. It is a matter of public record that a remedy for this non-compliance – the addition of staffing to provide a proper program for juniors and seniors – has been a focal point of repeated requests through the budget process. To this point, all of those requests have been delayed, either by near zero budget increases, or by overriding and critical staff needs in other areas.

The addition of one more semester PE class – we have three already – is more than a legal requirement. A recent study placed teenagers at the top of a negative category in this country; stress and anxiety. You can read about that survey at and you can view our bi-annual health and wellness survey results (both 2010 and 2012) at the school. All of these reports contain clear indications that our teens are susceptible to stressors that, left unchecked, can be debilitating and dangerous to their well being and performance. I spend a considerable amount of my time working with our dedicated professionals and outside agencies to rescue students in distress. Our workload is growing. A break in the school day, to rejuvenate, to refresh, and to recreate in an organized way with schoolmates is one measure, among many others, to counter the stress of academics and social pressures.

Other elements include easing the homework burden, finding a way to better mesh with teenage sleep patterns, reducing the emotional dangers of social media, and sourcing greater contacts with forward thinking colleges and universities that have rejected the often unrealistic and narrow minded concepts of the ideal candidate for admission. We are working on all of these measures, but we could always use more help. I greatly appreciate the input that I have received. In the future, I will need some committed parents and community members who can work with us to better understand our students’ busy lives, their hopes and fears, their capacity for resilience and their pathway to stronger character traits.

Thank you,


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incoming freshman parent
9 years ago

I applaud Principal Mead for coming up for a solution for the current Sophomores and for addressing what a lot of parents (myself included) feel which is ***how can we help our high schoolers with the bombardment of what they deal with***?

The gym requirement is State mandated; however the way Tom Mead and the guidance staff has gone about solving it for the students most affected has been really wonderful, it was an enormous problem to handle and solve.

SB Resident
9 years ago

I agree, a great letter!

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