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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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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