Parent questions school’s recess policy



April 12, 2012 - 12:00 AM

A Lincoln elementary mom says kids in Iola don’t get enough recess during the school day.

The 15 minutes of a 436-minute day dedicated to outdoor, physical activity isn’t enough for most of the 645 kids flooding the classrooms of USD 257’s three elementary schools, Amanda Pollock said at a recent school board meeting.

“One recess is absolutely not enough,” she said. “He cannot sit through a class for seven hours. He can barely sit at home for an hour.”

Iola elementary students have a 30-minute physical education class every other school day and a 25-minute lunch period every day in addition to their one morning recess.

Although her third-grade son’s attention deficit hyperactivity disorder adds to her concern, Pollock said limiting recess to 15 minutes “just isn’t right,” and additional playtime would benefit both school faculty and students.

“I think (adding a recess) would be better for the teachers. It would give them a little bit of a break,” she said. “It would also give these kids time to run off some energy.

“And it’s not just my son,” Pollock added. “There are a lot of other children that have problems sitting still for that long.”

Kansas students, grades one through 11, must receive at least 1,116 hours of instruction per academic year.

Although state statutes allow districts to consider a second 15-minute recess in the afternoon as part of the day’s instruction, Superintendent of Schools Brian Pekarek said doing so could have a negative effect on student learning.

“Although we can do this, it is important to weigh the costs of loss of formal instructional time from our teachers,” he said.

Another consideration is the financial impact, Pekarek said. Because the existing school-day structure was agreed upon by the teachers union, any additional recess in the morning or afternoon would require the district and the teachers to go back to the negotiation table, which would likely cause an increase in expenses. 

“Either way, we would have a lot to think about and study from all sides if we choose to pursue this concept further,” Pekarek said. “This is a complex topic.”

Dr. Greta McFarland, a pediatrician at Ashley Clinic in Chanute, said all school-age children should have at least one full hour a day of “hard exercise.” But that’s not to say it should be a school’s job to ensure children get the recommended amount of exercise.

“Families do need to realize that even if children are doing physical activity in school, that may not be enough,” she said. “People have gotten the idea that the school should be responsible for all the physical activity, and I don’t think that’s a practical thing.”

Even if schools tried to coordinate playtime with a group of kids for a full hour, those recesses still wouldn’t meet the benchmark, McFarland said.

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