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.

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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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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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