Prince George’s County Parents Speak up About Recess

The following opinion was presented by LaShayla Clark, one of four Prince George’s County parents who spoke during the public comment portion of the February 25, 2016 Board of Education meeting about the need for longer recess. You may view Ms. Clark’s comments beginning at 1:21:58 in the video below.

Good evening. Thank you for the opportunity to speak about the topic of recess. Two and a half years ago, my husband and I decided to move our family from Georgia to Maryland with the hopes of our children receiving a high quality education. Despite what we heard regarding education in Prince George’s county, we looked for a school that was ranked high and bought a home a little over a year ago. I have three small children, a four year old, a two year old and a 7 month old. My oldest will be starting school this fall.

Recently, my eyes have been opened to a number of issues that reside with our county’s school system. Many of the families that I have met here are planning to home school their children or send them to private school. One of those parents who send her children to private school said, “Our children will be done with school by the time they fix everything.” Nevertheless, I believe that my children can and will receive a great education in Prince George’s County and so I am here to ask you to consider research based policies for our school system.

It was while visiting schools, that I asked an administrator how much time the students have for recess. She told me 15 minutes. I was in shock. She went on to say that Prince George’s County schools require 15 minutes. I have since learned that each school has an option to allow up to 30 minutes of recess a day. However, many schools only provide the minimum. I recently spoke to a principal in Prince George’s County who increased the time of recess at her school. I learned a couple of things in my conversation with her. One is that she wants what is best for all of her students. Two, she wants her school to aim for the Bronze level for the Healthy Schools Program, which encourages at least 20 minutes of recess per day.

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Parent Asks Board of Education for Longer Recess

The following opinion was presented by Genevieve Demos Kelley, a member of Prince George’s County Advocates for Better Schools, in the public comment portion of the May 14, 2015 Board of Education meeting. Much of the content here is sourced from a post published on this blog that Kelley had written previously.

Good evening. Thank you for giving me the opportunity to speak about an issue that has been the topic of countless playground conversations, PTA meetings, and gripe sessions among the parents in my community: the length of recess for elementary school students. According to PGCPS policy, elementary students may have as little as 15 minutes of recess per day. Among my circle of friends, this is a favorite complaint. One of my friends has even decided to start home-schooling her son, in part because he was not getting enough unstructured time in his kindergarten year.

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Recess: A Thing of the Past?

The following is an opinion piece written by Prince George’s County parent Li’l Dan Celdran. The views expressed here do not necessarily reflect those of the owner of this website, Prince George’s County Advocates for Better Schools, or its members.

My son attends our neighborhood school as a kindergartner this year. As a product of Prince George’s County Public Schools myself, I knew that school would be different for my son: I just didn’t realize hoIMG_6473cropw much. For instance, at the orientation I learned that his school gets only 15 minutes of recess daily (weather permitting). When I attended kindergarten, I went for a half day. We had 30 minutes for lunch, then 30 minutes for recess. We used construction paper, scissors, crayons and glue. We played “house” and dress up. We used blocks to build structures. School was fun.

Now, students don’t go outdoors when it’s snowing, raining or too windy. Instead, they have recess indoors. This may include playing “quiet” games (e.g. board games), free play with manipulatives, or going to classroom “centers” (e.g. library corner, science area, drama-imaginative play). Although he receives regular Physical Education classes, this does not take the place of recess. Recess is a break that would allow children to play (or not play) as they wish. I want my child to have a break from his learning and more time for movement and creative play.

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PGCPS Policy Prohibits Use of Food or Recess as Punishment/Reward, Lunch Must Last 30 Minutes

by Amy Alford

Prince Georges’ County Public Schools has a policy on Wellness, Nutrition, and Physical Activity (Administrative Procedure 0116) that specifically prohibits the use of food, physical activity, recess, or physical education as a reward or punishment.

playground_6403.v01a.25percentThe policy also states that lunch must last at least 30 minutes, and principals must ensure that students have at least 20 minutes to eat. Additionally, it calls for principals to provide a cafeteria environment that is “pleasant and conducive to appropriate food consumption and socialization.”

It may surprise some parents that the policy requires that “all elementary children will have multiple opportunities daily for physical activity lasting 15 minutes or more, in addition to a daily recess period, preferably before lunch.” Earlier in the document, physical activity is defined as, “Any bodily movement produced by skeletal muscles those [sic] results in an expenditure of energy.”

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15 Minute Minimum Recess in PGCPS Is Shortest in the Area

by Genevieve Demos Kelley

Some elementary school students in Prince George’s County have as little as 15 minutes of recess per day. PGCPS policy states that recess for students in kindergarten through fifth grade should be “no less than 15 minutes per day and for no more than 30 minutes per day.” (Middle school and high school students do not have recess.)

playground_6394.v01b.25percentIn a 2013 policy statement, the American Academy of Pediatrics has written about the “crucial role” of recess as an “essential, planned respite from rigorous cognitive tasks.”

The AAP does not recommend a specific number of minutes for daily recess. However, its recess policy statement notes that across the nation, “the length specified for recess ranges widely, from 20 to 60 minutes per day,” suggesting that a 15 minute recess is outside the norm.

Recess Policies of Nearby Districts

How does PGCPS’s recess policy for elementary schools compare with policies in nearby districts?

  • Montgomery County requires that recess for elementary school students be between 20 and 30 minutes.
  • Howard County elementary schools schedule a 30 minute recess into the school day.
  • Anne Arundel County Public Schools cites on its website the recommendation of the National Association for Sport and Physical Education (NASPE) that recess be at least 20 minutes per day. (Read the full NASPE statement here.)
  • Fairfax County elementary schools recently increased their scheduled recess to 20 minutes per day, after the recent move to a full-day schedule on Mondays.
  • DC Public Schools allow for a minimum of 20 minutes of recess per day in elementary school.

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