Spaghetti and meatballs aren't just for San Francisco public school cafeterias.
During a physical education class at the Mission Education Center on Wednesday, Virgil Lockett, a San Francisco Unified School District PE specialist, used the popular lunch option as a catalyst to teach second grade students how to exercise their abdominal muscles.
"Spaghetti! Meatball! Spaghetti! Meatball!" Lockett chanted as students curled up to imitate a meatball, then stretched out like a spaghetti noodle. Adults would call them crunches, but Lockett prefers to make exercises more fun for the youngsters.
"I try to make [lessons] culturally relevant for the student population," he explained.
As the students engaged in other aerobic exercises, their classroom teacher took note of the 25-minute lesson so she can mirror the exercises without the use of a specialist. Lockett is among only 32 PE specialists to teach at the district's 73 elementary schools.
"The idea is that we're building [teachers'] skills and capability to deliver PE when the specialist is no longer there," said Michelle Zapata, the SFUSD's supervisor for physical education.
This school year marks the first time all the elementary schools receive site visits from PE specialists. There were 28 instructors in the 2013-14 school year who visited 90 percent of the schools, and 21 specialists in the 2012-13 school year who visited 68 percent of the schools.
The increase in elementary school PE specialists is due to the Public Education Enrichment Fund, which requires The City to contribute specified funds to school programs each year. The fund was renewed to June 30, 2041, through the passage of Proposition C in the Nov. 4 election.
Prior to PEEF, which took effect in 2005, there were credentialed PE teachers working at middle and high schools but not elementary schools, Zapata said.
While PE specialists have since been slowly phased in, the district emphasized that each elementary student receives 100 minutes of physical education per week as required by state law. At the middle and high school level, the district provides funding to school sites to hire PE teachers.
PEEF's PE budget for this school year is $4.5 million. Last school year, the budget was $4.2 million, a 43 percent increase from the 2012-13 school year, said Kathy Fleming, the district's PEEF supervisor.
The district is still working to expand physical education services -- it hopes to eventually employ nearly 120 PE specialists -- but emphasized that even having PE programs in the district is significant.