Carson City parents aren’t playing around when it comes to their kids’ school recess.
Recently, at a Carson City School Board meeting, parents expressed their disapproval of the elementary schools only having two recesses, one 15 minute recess during the morning or afternoon and one at lunch.
All of the Carson City elementary schools, prior to 2000 had three recesses, one in the morning, at lunch and in the afternoon, but in 2002, all the elementary schools except for Fritsch switched to only two.
“In 2002, as we began to implement the Race to the Top program (in Carson City Schools) there was an observation that by reducing one recess time, we would gain additional instruction time in our schools,” said Carson City Superintendent Richard Stokes in an interview with Appeal. “With the wellness changes, we are interested in providing physical activities to students in the school day. We are now taking another look at how recess is used in the school district.”
Recently, with the addition of a new principal, the school administration at Fritsch switched its program to match the rest of the district’s programs. Parents voiced displeasure at the school board meeting in October, saying the decrease in school recesses for the elementary schools was not upholding the Nevada Legislature’s School Wellness Policies that were passed this year, which state schools must provide the opportunity for moderate to vigorous physical activity for at least 30 minutes during each regular school day
“We want to support our new principal because he thinks that he is doing the right thing,” Stokes said. “But it is a good conversation to have and we want to be sensitive to the members of our community and we believe in exploring this concept.”
Many of the parents at the school board meeting said the schools aren’t upholding this new policy because there isn’t enough recess time at lunch to make up for the missing 15 minutes of physical activity without the third recess.
“We want to encourage increasing the number of recesses because of the exercise and physical activity and that comes down to what’s best for our kids in our schools,” Carson City parent Angie Wolz said at the meeting. “Afternoon recess is beneficial to get some energy out and help the kids refocus so they can learn more. It will help them with their learning.”
Some parents believed having the additional recesses would help give students the mental break they need from the day.
“I think these breaks are important,” said parent Sara Romeo. “I don’t have an overactive child, but she needs a break because she gets overwhelmed in school. Besides, the teachers need a break too since they are with the kids all day long. We need the breaks so that education and learning can be maximized.”
“My child and others are worth more than the minimum regulation of nutrition, learning, etc.,” added parent Sarah Billings.
In a study done by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Center for Disease Control and Prevention Division of Adolescent and School Health, it states “school boards, superintendents, principals, and teachers can feel confident that providing recess to students on a regular basis may benefit academic behaviors, while also facilitating social development and contributing to overall physical activity and its associated health benefits.”
Some educators, however, believed the additional recess time would impair teachers and students learning. Ruthlee Caloiaro, principal at Mark Twain Elementary said at the meeting the teachers have the discretion to utilize class time breaks and she believes teachers do use breaks when they find necessary.
“We all want what’s best for our kids,” Caloiaro said. “We want to allow educators and instructors the freedom so they aren’t bogged down with worrying about recess time when they are trying to have learning time. I don’t know if unstructured time is more important than learning in the classroom.”
Surrounding counties, like Douglas, have three set recesses for their elementary kids — one in the morning, one at lunch and one in the afternoon. Each recess in the morning and afternoon are about 15 minutes long and the lunch recess is about 10 minutes long.
“We have it like this because the policy calls for at least 30 minutes and it is good for the kids to move,” said Douglas County Superintendent Teri White. “We want to be compliant to wellness.”
The issue of recess will be continued at a later school board meeting, in which Stokes said the board can decide whether or not to implement the third recess, and at which schools to do so. For now, the board is waiting on the Carson City Wellness Council — a board composed of school administrators, parents and nutrition and health representatives — to meet to discuss what is more beneficial. The council meets on a monthly basis, so it’s likely the School Board won’t see the recess issue on the agenda for at least two months.