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Midvale Journal

Hillcrest Adaptive PE class provides equality for all students

Nov 23, 2020 11:31AM ● By Julie Slama

An adoptive PE class at Hillcrest High will have both students and their peers practicing sports together, similar to how the school’s unified basketball program works, as seen here in January 2019. (Julie Slama/City Journals)

By Julie Slama | [email protected]

This spring, Hillcrest High will hold an adaptive PE class for both students with special needs and for their peers, playing side-by-side.

“It will be similar to unified sports, with our students in the same class,” said teacher Shannon Hurst, who pushed for and designed the course. “Other schools have an adaptive PE class, so I pushed to have the same.”

The course will introduce team sports such as volleyball, basketball and soccer—and possibly some racquet sports and even Frisbee or bowling—with modified equipment she already is purchasing.

“We may use a beach ball instead of a volleyball or a smaller soccer ball or women’s basketball and learn the basic skills and practice those together,” she said. “Any time we work on skills, if we aren’t one-to-one, we’d have a partner for every one to three athletes. After we learn the skills and rules first, my vision is that we’d play a modified game together.”

Hurst said that by having the unified sports team members in the class, it would help with practices as it can be difficult for students to stay afterschool. She still would hold practices once per week afterschool so others could participate as the class would be optional and carry an elective credit. 

Hillcrest currently offers unified coed basketball during the winter and unified coed soccer in the spring to its athletes and partners. Hurst coaches those as well as assists with the cross country team in the fall.

“We’ll incorporate some running as part of the warm up and make the class and games fun and competitive,” Hurst said, adding a lot of it will have to “go with the flow” this year as she introduces the new concepts and is uncertain in January, what guidelines will be in place with the COVID-19 pandemic.

Hurst began pushing for the class in spring 2018 after observing students with special needs using the music hallway 20 to 30 minutes once per week as a space for PE. 

“They deserve equal space,” she said. “Inclusion is a big thing with our unified program and with our school. We need to push for and provide equality.”

Parent Julie Cluff said she has seen the students using the hallway by the auditorium and music hall for PE.

“It’s sad,” she said. “This is a step forward. She (Hurst) has done a great job with basketball and soccer the last few years. She really understands the kids. I’m hoping it will be more of PE class in the gym, with their peers next to them, helping them. This kind of PE class has never happened here before.”