Parents Launch Petition to Restore Lost Recess Time

| February 20, 2014 | 0 Comments | Education

A Bristow mom has started a petition, calling on the Prince William Public Schools to “Give Recess Back to Our Children.”

Wednesday evening, after much discussion, the Prince William School Board voted to remove five minutes from elementary children’s recess each day to make up for 14.7 lost hours of school instruction due to weather closures.

The School Board thought that whereby high schools and middles schools had more time built in, elementary schools include non-instruction time called “recess” in which children effectively play and let their energy out by running around the school yard. In fact, having recess time caused elementary schools to be short more hours than other county schools.

Whereas the shortening of recess by five minutes a day seemed to be a simple way to gain back time, it was not a popular one. Immediately, parents took to social media saying that at just 15 minutes per day recess sessions for elementary school children were already too short.

Sara Meadows of Bristow wrote the digital petition hosted by the online site, Meadow’s petition begins, “In this day and age, recess is vital to our children’s health, both mental and physical.”

At 6 a.m. Thursday morning, the petition already had 51 signatures.

Bristow Beat’s Facebook page also saw an outcry against the decision to shorten recess. Parents argued that young children have to sit through too much structured activity as it is in the school day, and that recess is a good opportunity to allow them to be children.

“Kids today spend almost all of their time in structured activities or in front of a screen (tv, video games, computer, cell phone, ipod) with no opportunity to learn to entertain themselves and be active for fun, EXCEPT SCHOOL RECESS,” one woman commented. “Cut that back and then they wonder why kids have such issues with attention span, creative thinking, etc. The business of childhood is play.”

Many parents commenting agreed that recess is a necessity so that students could come back to class refreshed and ready to learn. They expressed their fear that with a shortened recess children’s behavior and academic ability would suffer.

Some parents advised the School Board that they would prefer if schools would instead add five more minutes onto the end of the school day than take away time from recess.

But School Board members discussed the need for children to participate in physical activity throughout the day. They determined that just because the assigned recess time was to be shortened, does not mean that teachers could not incorporate more health and wellness time into the instructional day. Loree Williams, the Woodbridge representative on the School Board, asked that if there would be enough physical activity throughout the day to help students move around and clear their minds before returning to doing seat work.

“You can’t count recess time as physical education and physical education for recess,” Superintendent Steven Walts answered. “But the fact of the matter is that physical education, health and wellness is a part of the curriculum, so if the teacher wanted to do anything from stretches to any other type of physical activity, they are more than welcomed to do that.”

The Commonwealth requires that Virginia schools have 150 minutes of physical activity. However, PWCS might be meeting this required time, counting their physical education time alone, making the extra recess time not required by the state.

Experts on child behavior agree that physical activity is important not only to health but to cognitive functioning, but not all distinguish between time for physical activity and free play. However, those that do say that free play is less structured and encourages children to make up their own rules. This helps them gain social skills involved with working through problems without adult intervention.

At the School Board meeting, members spent more time discussing which days could be added to make up snow days. They wanted to make sure they did not inconvenience parents that had already made vacation plans. They explained their reasons for not using President’s Day, one reason being that many presidents came from the state of Virginia, such as Washington, Jefferson, Madison and Monroe.

School Board members did not seem to anticipate the controversy that might grow over shortening elementary recess.


© 2014, Bristow Beat. All rights reserved.

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