Rose Hudson is on a mission to put 'muscle' back in Meridian Public Schools' physical education programs. To do this, she has started a petition. So far, she has 400 names.
Because of cuts on the state level, district officials say in 2004-2005 schools will be $2.9 million short of the previous year's budget. With the district already absorbing cuts from previous years and cuts also being made on the administrative level, officials say they had no choice but to eliminate the position of PE assistants.
"I don't know where to cut other than to go into the classroom," said superintendent Sylvia Autry. "And that's just not what we need to do at this time."
"We have just got to find the money somewhere," said Hudson. "If we're not alive, it's not going to do us any good to be able to speak properly."
Hudson is referring to Mississippi's deadly number one ranking in adult and childhood obesity.
Aside from retirements and attrition, district officials say most of the former physical education assistants have been moved to fill open teacher assistant positions. In their new position district officials say most of the affected instructors will also still oversee students during playtime.
However, Hudson said something more structured is needed to help students not only physically but academically.
"There are so many children on Ritalin. To me, if they could get out and run and get rid of that energy that won't let them sit down in class, they wouldn't have to be on Ritalin or any other drug to make them behave in school," said Hudson.
Meridian Public School officials say they don't want the public to think that they are abandoning physical education. In fact, they say they plan to work closely with the local extension service on teaching children about eating healthier. Not only that, but as the district continues to look for grants in this area, they are encouraging all interested parents and others in the community to volunteer.
Anyone interested in volunteering is asked to call the MPS district office at 484-4915.