03/30/10 — District eyeing schools' recess

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District eyeing schools' recess

By Phyllis Moore
Published in News on March 30, 2010 1:46 PM

The Board of Education is considering a proposal to introduce 30 minutes of recess activity time into the school day, starting in the coming school year.

Debbie Durham, the district's director of health and physical education, said much research went into the proposal, based on studies that children are not receiving sufficient activity and nature time. Officials also hope to make strides in reversing the nationwide trend of childhood obesity, she said.

The request, she said, would be to have a half-hour recess period at all schools, grades K-12, ideally before lunch.

There are several advantages to doing things in that order, Mrs. Durham said -- including increased attentiveness in class, a decrease in discipline referrals and less food waste at mealtime.

Board members seemed receptive to the concept at Monday's meeting.

"I'm all for physical fitness," board member Dave Thomas said. "Kids need to get off the couch and do things."

His main question centered around the high school students and how they would be supervised during a recess period.

Mrs. Durham said teachers would be responsible for that aspect.

John Grantham, board member, pointed out that the purpose for recess differs from the typical physical education period.

"In the lower grades, it's going to be geared more to the unstructured side -- recess and not just a physical activity," he said.

"This is above their physical education time," Mrs. Durham said.

Grantham agreed with the research and "plain common sense," especially for elementary-age children, who need a release during the day. He said he hoped to receive positive feedback from the public, also favoring the move.

Board member Shirley Sims said she appreciated consideration being given to more physical activity for children, and hopes parents will understand that this is like the old-time recess that many grew up having.

"Schools were built for children, and we're service providers," she said. "We want children to look forward to coming to school, having an opportunity to be children."

The 30-minute approach would also serve another purpose, Ms. Sims added -- it gives them an outlet they do not currently have.

"They can't talk in classrooms. They can't talk in the lunchroom. They need to be able to have a chance to talk during the day, have some free time," she said.

Thomas said young people already have sufficient options to be inactive -- between computers, text messages and TV. What they need is to be taught about the importance of social and physical well-being.

"I think (the proposal) can be tweaked and will be a great accomplishment," he said. "It will be good to have more activities that we can give young people."