Salem-Keizer testing new elementary school health curriculum

Members of the public can view a new elementary school health curriculum being considered for adoption in the Salem-Keizer School District early next year.

Seven district elementary schools have been piloting “The Great Body Shop” this fall. Those schools are Bush, Kalapuya, Grant, Sumpter, Yoshikai, Clear Lake and the district’s all-online EDGE program.

What’s covered

The Great Body Shop” covers the same 10 broad topics in each grade level: injury prevention and personal safety, nutrition, functions of the body, growth and development, disease and illness prevention, substance abuse prevention, community health and safety, self-worth and mental health, environmental health and physical fitness.

Specific lessons vary based on the student’s grade level, with more complicated or mature topics as students get older. An overview of what’s included is available on the curriculum website.

For instance, kindergarten lessons cover topics including self-management of emotions under mental health, the five senses, family similarities and differences, safe and unsafe touches, and “how being a responsible citizen helps your community.”

By fifth grade, students learn about basic first aid, hygiene during puberty, biological differences between boys and girls, gangs, bullying prevention, sexual harassment and grief and loss.

Why a new curriculum

“The Great Body Shop” would be the first overhaul of the district’s health curriculum since it adopted the current one in 2005, district spokeswoman Emily Hicks said. 

Oregon’s State Board of Education last adopted new health standards for schools in December 2016, and Hicks said the new curriculum is intended to meet those requirements.

“The district has supplemented the current health curriculum for several years, but we are now at the point where a full adoption is needed to meet Oregon updated standards and effectively support educators and students,” Hicks said in an email.

New curriculum adoptions are also costly, Hicks said. This year, the district set aside money specifically to replace outdated curriculum, a total of $10 million in the budget. Hicks said that’s for a larger set of updates including the health curriculum, as well as middle school social studies and language arts. She didn’t have a separate figure for what the new health curriculum will cost.

The adoption process

The new curriculum was chosen by a committee of educators, parents, a community member and a board member, according to the district website.

In response to multiple requests from Salem Reporter to speak to someone involved in the selection, Hicks said educators would be available next week to discuss how they selected the curriculum.

The committee is due to meet again in January and will make a recommendation to the school board about adoption.

The Salem-Keizer School Board will vote on the new curriculum in early 2023, Hicks said, though an exact date hasn’t been set. She said the vote would likely take place by March.

Get involved

Anyone can view the proposed curriculum materials at public viewings held Thursday evening and next week.

Materials are available for viewing from 6-7 p.m. Thursday at Kalapuya Elementary School, 2085 Wilmington Avenue N.W., and Yoshikai Elementary School, 4900 Jade St. N.E.

Materials will also be available from Dec. 12-16, 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. at the district’s library media support services office, 3630 State St.

The school board will also take public comment prior to voting on the adoption.
Parents and guardians can also opt children out of lessons on sexuality included in health curriculum under state law, though they cannot opt out of the entire health curriculum without a documented religious or disability related reason, according to the state education department.

Contact reporter Rachel Alexander: [email protected] or 503-575-1241.

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Rachel Alexander is Salem Reporter’s managing editor. She joined Salem Reporter when it was founded in 2018 and covers city news, education, nonprofits and a little bit of everything else. She’s been a journalist in Oregon and Washington for a decade. Outside of work, she’s a skater and board member with Salem’s Cherry City Roller Derby and can often be found with her nose buried in a book.