He’s been told no a few times, but Michael Macdonald, 13, still says that one way or another, he wants a surfing class to be part of the offerings at Spring View Middle School.
Give him points for persistence and civic involvement.
The teen, who learned how to surf last summer, first thought of having a surf class at the Huntington Beach school, which serves grades 6 through 8, about a year ago to help newcomers learn how to surf and veterans like him learn new skills and gain practice. It could also help students prepare for high school teams, he said.
“Surfing is a very big workout,” Michael said. “It’s very physically demanding. A lot of people are looking for some consistent time to get better at surfing and being able to hone their skills better. I think this would be a great opportunity for those who want to learn how to surf and those who want to advance in surfing.”
He said he’s become “jealous” of his older sister, who gets to surf every day because she is on the Marina High School surf team.
Of course, he can surf outside of school hours, but Michael says the instructional aspect is what he is interested in.
Now, after school administrators denied his request, Michael and his mother, Denny Macdonald, said they plan to appeal to the Ocean View School District board at a future meeting.
Michael’s journey began when he approached Principal Jason Blade with the idea of a physical education class during zero period, which starts the school day an hour or so ahead of the typical first-through-sixth-period schedule for participating students. Those who have zero period typically attend classes only through fifth period.
Blade advised Michael to see if other students would be interested. Within two days, Michael had 50 student signatures on a petition. But it became clear that state standards were still a barrier, so Blade said the request had to be denied.
The California Department of Education on its website lays out what is permissible for physical education class. Performing multicultural dances and participating in activities that involve catching, kicking and volleying — not surfing — are appropriate for seventh grade, it says.
Supt. Carol Hansen added the class would have to be taught by a credentialed physical education teacher, and a zero period might make scheduling difficult for teachers and students. In addition, she said, the idea of having a class off campus — at the beach — presents liability concerns.
“A zero period class at the middle school level isn’t out of the ordinary, but a zero period class off of campus is out of the ordinary,” she said.
But Michael didn’t stop at no.
He began looking at the elective approach — adding to a roster of courses like art, band, orchestra, chorus, foreign language and economics — during regular class time.
Again, his request was denied.
“Any time we’re looking at electives, we want to look at how that’s going to fit into the entire core program and the preparation of students for high school and beyond,” Hansen said, again citing schedule concerns. “We’re never going to completely close the door, but right now we don’t feel that it would fit in our schedule or we would have a teacher credentialed to do a zero period elective class.”
She added that she encourages students to take a stand for what they believe.
“I want kids to be able to voice their wishes and concerns and help them learn why we say yes or no and what it involves,” she said. “We try to explain what are the requirements and how we have to juggle those things for all kids.”
Blade, who also surfs, recommended a club that would meet after school or on weekends, eliminating any credentialing issues, but Michael is insistent it be an actual class.
“What’s the point of having a school activity on the weekends?” he asked. “If you did that, it wouldn’t be a school function.”
Michael and his mother said their next steps are finding an interested teacher, writing a curriculum and appealing to the school board to allow an elective surf class.
Michael’s mother said she applauds her son’s efforts.
"[His father and I] are really proud of Michael because we know, even as adults, that this is something that is a very hard thing to try to initiate, particularly when you’re dealing with the public education system and administrators,” said Denny Macdonald, a licensed marriage family therapist who has taught community college classes.
“It’s one of those things that, even though he’s been getting negative comments from people, he has done really well with following through and continuing to say, ‘Forget it, I’m going to keep doing this.’ ”