Follow-Up Needed After Last Year’s Changes in PGCPS Recess Policy

playground_6394.v01b.25percentLori Morrow presented this testimony during the public comment portion of the July 12 Prince George’s County Board of Education work meeting.

Good evening Dr. Eubanks, Board Members, Dr. Maxwell, staff and community members,

My name is Lori Morrow.  I have been a PGCPS parent for 10 years and am active with the Prince George’s County Advocates for Better Schools. I chose to speak about recess tonight because it is a concern I continue to hear from parents, and it is also something principals have the ability to change for the upcoming school year if they wish.

Last summer, PGCPS updated its Health and Wellness Procedure 0116, and one of the changes was a recommendation to provide 30 minutes for elementary recess, with the minimum required time increasing from 15 to 20 minutes. This spring I submitted a Public Information Act request to find out how many schools actually met that 30-minute recommendation. The answer I received, and I quote: “Upon review, there are no records available to show school responses for compliance with the updated AP 0116 for this request.” I take that to mean the administration does not actually know.

Included in my reply was the spreadsheet of recess times by school prior to the update.  It was enlightening to learn that before 2017, approximately HALF of PGCPS elementary schools had 15-minute recess. At the same time, a quarter of schools managed to provide 30 minutes. With studies that show increased recess can improve student focus and academics, why were so many principals content to do the minimum, and are they still just meeting the minimum?

We appreciate that the wellness policy was updated last year, but I would love to see the administration and the Board of Education do more to encourage all principals to provide 30-minute recess. For the parents and community members out there, don’t settle for the minimum. If you believe kids should have 30 minutes for recess, advocate for it at your school. The framework is there and the principal has the authority to make it happen. I also learned there are no MSDE or PGCPS policies prohibiting middle school principals from implementing a break or recess period. I would love to see some of them experiment with schedules that give middle school students a mental break from their hour-long classes.

Ultimately I’m disappointed because this reinforced complaints that even when the policies and procedures are in place, schools may not be following them. For example 0116 also states that “Withholding of recess as a punishment is prohibited,” but many people, including my rising 5th grader, have examples where it is used that way either for individual students or the entire class.

I know there are a number of administrative procedures updates just posted this month, including changes for grading and reporting. Please ensure that principals and staff have the training, resources, and support needed to implement them all effectively. Follow through and hold them accountable if they do not. Parents should not have to fight for schools to meet requirements and recommendations that are already in place.

Thank you.

3 thoughts on “Follow-Up Needed After Last Year’s Changes in PGCPS Recess Policy

  1. Maluhia RC says:

    What has happened with this issue? I think all schools should have recess, no matter what grade or age. I am interested to know if any changes has been made? My son always say that he does not have recess? I am concerned! I also know my daughter has no recess also she is just entering 9th grade.

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    • L Morrow says:

      The administration mentioned the recess policy at the August Board of Education meeting and said that it had been emphasized with Elementary Principals at their meetings prior to school starting. The Administrative Procedure 0116 has not changed this year. I have heard from some parents that 30-minute recess was mentioned at Back-to-School events. I do not know of any PGCPS middle or high schools that have a recess period. What grade is your son? If he is at an elementary school and still does not have recess, you should speak with the teacher and principal or elevate to the Instructional Director if his school is not following the AP.

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