HomeCherry Hill NewsOfficials present updated health curriculum at committee meeting

Officials present updated health curriculum at committee meeting

Changes will result in renewed focus on mental health, relationships


 The curriculum and instruction committee of the township board of ed recently reviewed upcoming changes to health classes for the 2022-’23 school year.

The presentation was led by Assistant Superintendents Dr. Farah Mahan, Dr. Kwame Morton and Dr. Matthew Covington, who led a committee of teachers to review the standards and created the curriculum.

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“Luckily enough, there really isn’t a lot of absolutely brand-new information (in the updated health standards), but we did take this opportunity to have conversations with students and other teachers to look at all of the curriculum, not just the changing standards,” Covington said. 

“We knocked the curriculum down to its studs and started rebuilding.”

The curriculum review opened by explaining how the district intends to communicate the changes in the upcoming school year. In addition to the usual way, the curriculum will be available through Rubicon Atlas – on the district website under academics – and a letter will be sent to all elementary-school parents explaining the Family Life Curriculum. 

A notification will be sent through Genesis alerting parents to what is being taught, and the district will send a message from the principals to parents via Blackboard before the curriculum begins. Parents will also be made aware of the option to opt out of the curriculum in elementary school or for specific units at the secondary level.

Parents who want to know more about what will be taught beyond the posted curriculum can make an appointment with the school principal and a nurse, a physical education (PE) or health teacher, who can share the specific resources and materials, Mahan noted.

“That is not new,” she added. “That is something we have offered for many years. Many families have taken advantage of that to make a determination about opting out.”

Opting out will not affect a student’s grade, and can be done entirely at the elementary level, but for the secondary level, students cannot opt out of the curriculum in its entirety because passing health is a graduation requirement. So is passing PE, and because of that, students cannot opt out of the entire health curriculum but can opt out of specific units. 

“What we focus on is, if there’s a specific unit or strand of information that you choose for your child not to take part in, they will be put in a third location, typically the library or study hall, and they will be given an alternate activity,” said Morton.

In response to parent comments, the administrators clarified that another option might be working with the guidance counselors to enroll in an online accredited health class. They also noted that they are not required to use the examples listed in the performative expectations mentioned by the Department of Education. 

For example, the fifth-grade standard is that “puberty is a time of physical, social and emotional changes,” and the performance expectation is to “explain common human sexual development and the role of hormones (e.g., romantic and sexual feelings, masturbation, mood swings, timing of pubertal onset),” the department said.

“Our curriculum does not include the language as indicated here on this slide, because we wanted to make sure that the materials and resources and languages that we shared with our fifth-grade students were age and developmentally appropriate,” Mahan said. 

She added that the district would continue with parent-child information nights in the future with a school nurse. Mahan presented the proposed curriculum at the elementary school level and Morton presented it at the secondary level. Topics and focuses included:

  • By the end of second grade: students will understand the idea of stereotyping related to gender and what it can look like.
  • By the end of fifth grade, students will learn about puberty, body changes, hygiene, reproductive system and mental changes/mood swings.
  • In middle school, students will learn about student wellness, like stress and effective decision-making; about alcohol and tobacco; and about different kinds of relationships, from friendship to romantic or sexual relationships. They will also learn to identify resources available in the community.
  • In high school, students will learn more about wellness, the reproductive system, preventing unwanted pregnancies, suicide prevention and drivers’ education, nutrition, fitness, aging, death and grief, decision-making, pregnancy and parenting and social and emotional learning as an adult.

The full presentation will be available on the district website after it is seen by the full board at its Sept. 6 meeting.


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