PE Requirement at Berkeley High

Parent Q&A

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  • PE at Berkeley High

    (2 replies)

    My son will be entering Berkeley High next fall. He wants to complete his PE credits in the first two years, since he anticipates taking lots of AP courses in his junior and senior years. He wants to run cross-country in the fall; I thought he could take a spring semester PE course, but I just looked at the course catalogue and it looks like PE courses are all year-long. Is this right? What can he do in the spring to get 5 credits, if he doesn't want to do YMCA classes? (This is assuming there will be in-person school and sports a year from now!). Thanks in advance

    That is correct. PE classes at BHS are a full year. He shouldn’t discount the Y so quickly tho - it is actually a pretty decent program and he would only need two semesters of it if he runs XC his freshman and sophomore years. If he runs all four years, he wouldn’t need the Y at all. 

    A lot of Freshmen start out at BHS worried about fulfilling the PE requirement, but it isn't actually that big a deal and there are many ways to do it. Your son could run cross country all four years for example. Kids need exercise even while taking AP classes and there is really no reason to fulfill this requirement as quickly as possible. Lots of students play on sports teams while also taking heavy course loads...and if college admissions is a consideration, it looks better to have a solid extracurricular that he participates in for all four years. He might also find other interests along the way such as mountain biking, ultimate frisbee, or dance. Berkeley High has so much to offer and taking a PE class means possibly missing out on taking something more interesting such as art or music. Also, the dance classes count towards the PE credit. Best of luck at Berkeley High School!

  • Berkeley High School PE requirement

    (1 reply)

    Our daughter will be starting 9th grade at BHS this fall.   She's not very much into sports, and we're trying to figure out the best way for her to take care of needed 20 PE credits.  She is busy two afternoons a week after school as part of her choir, so that limits her after-school time for PE.   She also wants to give herself room to take a fun elective class like video production, so it seems that doing PE as an in-school class would make that impossible.  Is her best path just to take the PE Waiver option and try and fit in the hours she needs at the YMCA?  From the YMCA website it looks like they're pretty organized in logging those hours.  For those that did this, did it work out well? 

    Our kid did Ultimate Frisbee recently, which required three 2-3 hour practices per week, and because they're all over the map literally [it's a club, not a school sport, so they have to use whatever school or city space is available], the times are dependent on when the coaches can get space reserved. My son practiced 7-9 Monday nights, 3:30-5:30 Thursday nights, and 10-1 Sundays, but there were several different options for them to choose from. Starting about February they're in game mode, so the weekend practices turn over to game days. They began in late September and ended in late May. It's a perfect way for busy BHS kids to get the PE credit.

  • P.E. at BHS

    (1 reply)

    My freshman is trying to figure out how to get her PE credits without taking regular PE at the school.  She danced for several years, but quit 3 years ago.  She's interested in soccer, but is a beginner, and is not sure ABSC would be a good fit for her, or if it would qualify for PE credits (must be 5 hours a week).  She's also interested in swimming and gymnastics, but again, she is beginner in both fields, and would probably not qualify for a team.  To complicate things, she works after school on Tuesdays and Thursdays.  Any suggestions for PE credits (not at school)?  Any feedback on the YMCA PE credits?  Is it well run?  Fun for the kids?  Thanks.

    Consider joining the Orienteering team.  They meet Fridays at lunch.  They have a handful of trainings (after school) and a handful of meets.  It's a lot of fun and a great way to connect with other BHS students.

Archived Q&A and Reviews


PE Credits for Ultimate or mountain biking?

Feb 2015

My 8th grader is looking forward to continuing his sports interests at BHS. He's
interested in pursuing ultimate frisbee and mountain biking.  Can students obtain P.E.
credit for competing with either of these clubs?  what kind of outside time is
required, and what are the seasons for these sports?  He might also be interested in
crew, which I know is time-consuming. I don't think he wants to do more than one of
these sports in a single season! Does anyone have advice about combining any of these
sports with academics AND with band (his other passion)? what's realistic? thanks.
future BHS mom

My son is a sophomore at BHS and is on the ultimate team. He gets his PE credit through a waiver because ultimate is technically a ''club,'' not an official school sport. But the team coaches make that really easy to navigate -- they just give their name and student ID to the coach, who gives the info to the school. Easy-peasy. Practices are both Fall and Spring, but the Fall is mostly used for conditioning, as well as learning the game. Spring is when the games and tournaments are. Practices are Sunday mornings, and Tuesday/Thursday after school (at least this year -- it may be different next year). Since they're a club sport, there's always some issues gaining field access but it usually works out. I don't know about band, but I do know that there are a couple kids on the team who are also doing badminton, and they make it work (I think they skip one of the weekly ultimate practices). Hope this helps! Berkeley High Coup parent

Berkeley High has a fabulous mountain bike team, and yes, kids can get PE credit. The season is Dec-May, three times a week practice, 5 races in the spring, riders of all levels welcome. Many of the kids on the team are serious about academics, and enjoy riding all year long. Coaches with hearts of gold. The only danger is that once you see how fun it is you'll want to get a mountain bike too! Heather C

Both of my sons have been involved in the Ultimate Frisbee team. It is not an official school sport but a club. It is co-ed sport and very welcoming to new and experienced players. (Most players are boys but the girls numbers are growing!) Everyone who tries out is accepted. Just a desire to learn and play is needed. For many, it is the first sport they've every played, while others have played in middle school. Students can get PE credit. Academics is stressed as a priority. The team practices the entire school year- conditioning workouts during the fall onT/Th, 4-6pm and practice Sun 10am-1pm on the football field. In the spring, they actually practice during all three days. The terrific coaches are all volunteers. Last year, the team won the state championship and came in 2nd place in the western region. Our family loves this sport because of the close knit team, dedicated coaches, and spirit of the game. It is self officiated and players must negotiate any disputes.  Liane

Alternative to YMCA for PE Credit?

Dec 2014

My BHS Freshman is looking for alternatives to the YMCA-exemption PE program (which he
is currently doing but finds ''boring''). Ideally he'd like to rock-climb or hike. He
says there is no one at BHS who can provide him with information regarding PE
alternatives, but I find this hard to believe. All suggestions are appreciated!
BHS PE waiver mom

 My son is also a freshman at BHS this year. He joined the Orienteering Club at the beginning of the year to make progress toward the PE requirement. They meet every Friday at lunch and also once a week after school (either Monday or Thursday) for an actual orienteering practice. The meets aren't every weekend, so your son would need to make up the other hours doing other physical activity for ''training.'' Here is a link to an article in the school newspaper:’s_adventurous_orienteering_club The are a nice bunch of kids and I'm sure he could go to an Friday meeting to just check it out. It has been a nice activity for my non-sporty kid who likes to hike around in nature. A New BHS Parent

Berkeley Ironworks has a teen climbing team that meets Tuesdays and Thursdays from 4 to 6 pm, and it meets the BHS PE requirement. It's beginner-friendly and a good atmosphere. For the logistics of the PE waiver: I forget the details, but BHS has a meeting at the beginning of the semester for students who want a waiver. It's announced in the student daily bulletin, and if you're subscribed to the BHS e-tree you'll see the announcement come through. Climb on

Which sport for unskilled, non-competitive daughter?

August 2009

My daughter is a student at Berkeley High and she needs to join a sports team/club as PE waiver (she doesn't have space in her curriculum for PE but is required to have 2-year PE to graduate, long story). BHS requires that students to have 5 hours/week sports activities signed off by a non-parent as coach for PE waiver. Our problem is that she has no interest or skills for competitive sports. I wonder if anyone runs or knows some sports teams or clubs that meet regularly and are non-competitive that she can join for PE waiver. The sport itself is not very important (running, bandminton, golf, tennis...). Thanks. -Serena

Hi! Many teens do their p.e. requirements at the Berkeley YMCA. That way they can do swimming, aerobics, weight training, etc. At their own pace and time, often with their friends. Their is a women's only area that is comfortable for a lot of the teen girls, although they are welcome to exercise in the coed area as well. Your teen would need to sign up with the Youth & Teen Director, Sarah Markesky. She would also need to become a Y teen member. Financial assistance is available for that. If you have questions, please contact Sarah at 665-3234 or smarkesky [at] Eden

Well, most sports ARE competitive in some sense. Why doesn't she join one of the many teams at BHS? The cross-country team is fabulous. My daughter ran for three years. It's hard work but very gratifying. They begin practice the week before school starts and everyday after school through the fall. There is a really nice community on the teams and the level of ''competition'' is up the individual. We have a rivalry with Alameda high, but it's fun! Oh, it's also a really good workout. She will get into shape and feel the effects of long-distance running endorphins (always good for teens!). As far as managing her homework, my daughter did.

There is also a badminton team at the high school, but I don't know anything about it.

BHS team sports fulfill the PE credits. You could look on the school website to see if any of the other teams appeal your daughter. Go Jackets!

She should ask if a dance class, karate or classes at the Y would be sufficient, they are all non-competitive, I know many kids at El Cerrito High were able to use dance for their pe waivers. anon

NON-competitive sports -- my daughter will be a senior this year (gasp!) and since she was 11 years old been studying circus arts and physical theatre. It is so non-competitive and so empowering and healthy for her and every young adult who walks through the door. I can not say enough good about it. She can work at her own pace, set her own goals, can perform or not (check out for pictures of two BHS kids performing all summer long in New England) and she will go home tired and happy. A brand-new circus arts and circus-based fitness company, Kinetic Arts Center, is opening this Sept with classes and programs that will suit her needs -- It's in Oakland right off a bus line, BART, easy free-way access. There are kids of all ages in the performing program as well as not. We are lucky to have circus arts as a physical fitness option for our kids. Victoria

I own the Alameda Yoga Station. Some of our yoga teachers have allowed teens in class and I have written letters and/or signed forms stating that students have come to certain classes. There are many yoga studios in Berkeley and some of them might be willing to do the same. Betsy

Would rock climbing count? There are several climbing gyms around. Perhaps you could set up a non-competetive program with them?

If not that, how about teaching a sports program with little kids? Perhaps at one of the local elemnetary schools afterschool? How about at Washington Elementary jsut across the street from BHS? Would that count for her PE credits? Could be great for ehr resume, too.

Also, perhaps working out with a masters swim program at Clark Kerr or King Pool. The coaches could do the sign off and she wouldn't need to compete. They work out in the early morning and/or in the evening. At King she could probably do 2 nights a week to get the hours she needs. The coach at king (Blythe) is an excellent swim coach for all abilities and doesn't make people compete. Not sure if she'll take on minors, but you could ask. Anon

I have some suggestions, but I would like to point out that tennis, badminton, running and golf can all be competitive- so I wonder if competitiveness is truly the issue. (There is both a track and a cross country as well as a badminton team at BHS.) I worry that people see experiencing competition as a negative factor rather than a positive factor.

That being said there are about a hundred martial arts dojos in the area, there are some good dance studios in Berkeley, there is dragon boating and sailing at the Berkeley Marina. There are various venues to kayak at the Berkeley Marina and the Oakland estuary. I think there can be competition with these sports as well, but they are organized and could probably meet the BHS qualifications. I think the decision needs to be based on what your child likes to do because exercise is really important to our children and choosing something she enjoys will help her stay active as an adult. My children really love water sports and what better place to do them than in the Bay Area?

So I wonder has your daughter fully explored the team options at BHS? BHS has a fantastic sports program with a huge number of team, some of which require no prior experience in the sport. Parent of former BHS Athletes

Taking a class at a community college for PE credit?

March 2001

Has anyone had experience with their BHS student taking a PE course at a community college and getting high school credit? My son is having trouble squeezing in PE during the school year and it will not work out for him to take it at summer school this year. Any related suggestions? By the way, I am very supportive of PE and wish it was simply a part of every student's day as it was those many years ago when I was in high school. There are so many required courses that it seems a challenge to incorporate it. Thanks, Candace

I am very interested in trying to get PE credit for a child who takes PE outside of BHS. I have heard in the past that this credit was not given, even in cases of children involved in very organized and strenuous dance programs. I would be happy to be part of a lobbying group, if there are other parents in the same situation. Anne

PE at college-- Check what is offered at Vista, Laney, etc. if anything. It is possible to have what is called "concurrent enrollment." With this enrollment, you do not pay fees. The counselor and principle (or their stand ins) must sign the form. You need two signatures from the school plus parental approval. I think it is the records office or someone there who has to determine if it qualifies in place of the high school course. You get the form from Vista or sometimes Rory Bled has them. Check with your students counselor or Ms.Bled. Merle

I realize that you said your son could not attend summer school this year, but the best way to fit in PE credit for graduation is to:
- Take 2 PE courses during the summer
- Play a sport during the school year ... from volleyball to badminton to wrestling, etc.

The problem with taking PE at the community college is that most of their PE courses are 1 unit which translates to 2 units at Berkeley High School and you need 20 units to graduate. (Each BHS course is 5 units.)

I believe that the freshman class that arrives at BHS in August/September 2002 will be required to take a full year of PE during their 9th grade. Then only 2 more will be needed after that as long as the requirement stays the same.

Flora Russ --
Berkeley High School


Which team sports qualify for P.E. credit?

March 2001


My son will be attending Berkeley High next year as a freshman. We are trying to figure out how to get P.E. credit for team sports (he doesn't want a sport in which he could get hurt or that requires many hours each week--apparently that eliminates crew and lacrosse). Can anyone help? We'd like to know which team sports offer P.E. credit and if they meet fall, spring, or year-round, how many hours of commitment are required per week, and whether anyone can join the team or if tryouts are required. I tried calling the Athletics Department and emailing them as well, but I was told only that there is no centralized information repository for the 27 team sports available at Berkeley High. Does one really have to figure out who the coaches are for the teams and call each one? I don't see how any student who is taking two languages and the assigned classes can fit in P.E. within a 6-period day. Any advice is most appreciated. Maureen

Kids play the sports they are good at, that they like or have some interest in. It's a great way to skip formal PE classes, particularly if your child wants to use school time for academics. All team sports provide PE credit. But it is a big time commitment. Most teams have daily practice. Fall sports start just before school opens in Sept. Winter sports start in Nov. Spring sports start in Feb. or March, and they all run @ 3+ months. Each sport provides one term of PE. The school can provide you with a list of all the sports, which season they're played, who the coach is and a contact phone number.

BHS has one of the, if not the, largest number of athletic teams in the country, so I imagine you'll find something that appeals. I think all of them have tryouts and if there isn't a freshman team there may even be some strong competition for spots. Then there are the games or meets: sometimes on weekends and sometimes more than once each week on a weekday. So it's not a quick, low output, easy substitution for PE. I do think it's a good way for a kid to make friends and get involved, however. I'd start with figuring out where your child has skill or interest. My son ran X-Country in Fall just to get in shape for soccer which was in Winter. He got credit for 2 team sports in the same year. I believe kids need 4 semesters of PE to graduate.

By the way-- school is an 8 period day, at least for now. -Winifred

To Maureen regarding BHS team sports, I can recommend the distance running squad. My daughter joined this year and has profited physically and emotionally. The atmosphere is not gung-ho competitive. Besides conditioning exercises and running laps (with instruction on technique), the squad runs 4-5 miles through town once a week. It does takes time--every weekday after school until 5 or so and occasional Saturday meets, but the benefits include PE credit. The coach, Martin Malzahn, is a student at Pacific Lutheran Theological Seminary. You can reach him at martinmalzahn [at] or by phone at 981-1717 or 517-2483. By the way, for track shoes, he recommends a store on College Ave. that gives BHS a good price. If you're sure of the brand, model, and size, I recommend Nancy

A word about team sports at BHS ... my son plays a spring sport, and when it starts in February, he does nothing else. We don't see him at all until after dinner every night. He is dead tired when he comes home. Homework gets squeezed in, if at all, and his already mediocre grades drop to just above the level required to stay on the team (2.0 GPA). When he was a freshman, we seriously considered taking him off the team because of this. To me it seemed a very poor tradeoff, sports for grades. I was a nerdy sports-hating overachiever in high school so it was distressing to have a kid who not only hated academics but also wanted to be a jock!

HOWEVER, in retrospect, now that he is a senior, I have to admit that I am a total convert to the idea of team sports, and I am so grateful for the advice I got from others encouraging me to let him play no matter what. I'd say that his participation in sports has been the single most valuable aspect of his entire 4 years at Berkeley High. Here's why:
1. He's learned that hard work really does pay off. He is not a natural athlete, so he's had to work really hard to be good enough to get game time. His skills have improved so markedly through sheer determination and effort that he has gone from being a bench warmer most games to playing most games and really contributing.
2. Self esteem obviously derives from the above.
3. He learned how to lose.
4. Cameraderie among the team members (including JV, and the girls' team) has meant that he's always felt very comfortable at BHS, and part of a social circle. Not only that, but former players who've already graduated and are in college now are GREAT motivators for not-very-academic high schoolers.
5. Drugs and alcohol have not been a big problem because he can't abuse them and also play such a demanding sport.
6. He isn't a pudgy clumsy adolescent anymore. he's in great shape and interested in taking care of his body - in fact he is the first family member on my side in 3 generations to have visible muscles!

I think every kid can benefit from playing a sport and I highly recommend it.