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  • Bailey McFadden

PE Classes Return to GW Gym

University COVID Measures Had Prohibited Access

Most students at Walls have never had full access to George Washington University’s Lerner Health and Wellness Center for PE class, a norm before COVID-19 restrictions. After returning from the COVID pandemic lockdown, GW barred outside groups, including Walls, from renting, reserving, or otherwise utilizing space in many GW buildings, including the Lerner Center. As a result, PE classes have taken place outside or in the cramped Commons, to many students’ discomfort and displeasure.

However, the days of Commons gym classes are coming to an end: GW has permitted Walls PE classes to return to Lerner for the 2023 spring semester. Students will not be allowed in any part of the Lerner Center except for its gymnasium. Other areas, including the basketball and volleyball courts, will be available upon request.

The unique relationship between SWW and GW allows high school classes to use university facilities, according to Andre Julien, GW’s senior associate athletic director of campus recreation, wellness and club sports and the liaison between Walls and GW. “We simply set up hours and times and make spaces available, and your classes can come down individually and engage in coursework for the given period of time,” he said in an interview.

Though GW permitted Walls to return to Lerner, certain conditions and limitations remain. “We will not be able to utilize the locker rooms, which we had been able to do pre-COVID,” PE teacher Cory Matthews said. “So students will have to change up prior to going to [Lerner].”

Other restrictions from before COVID also apply. “Students are required to come in as a group, to operate as a group, and to leave as a group so that there are not folks that are lingering in places that we don’t have supervised,” Mr. Julien said.

GW also will require a “fifteen students for every one teacher” ratio, Mr. Matthews said. Since all Walls PE classes contain about 25-30 students, classes need two supervising teachers if they are going to visit the Center.

Despite the success for gym classes, Walls sports teams will not receive access to GW’s facilities. Walls Athletic Director Kip Smith highlighted that GW’s policy of not allowing sports teams to use facilities is not a major change in policy: Out of Walls’s 22 sports teams, only the basketball teams had access to Lisner pre-pandemic for their 6 a.m. practice. Still, “that may change if they allow use after school,” Walls athletic director Kip Smith said.

This restriction was put in place as a “safety measure, not a COVID measure,” Mr. Julien said.

Mr. Matthews is enthusiastic about his classes’ return to the building. “It’s been really tough not having a gym or dedicated space,” he said. “We’re very excited for our partnership with GW to come back to a portion of what it previously was.”


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