Elementary Recess Review

A committee of parents, teachers and school-based administrators provided a recommendation for the school division to extend recess time at the elementary level in response to a new Virginia law.

The new legislation, passed by the General Assembly in March and signed by Governor Ralph Northam in April, enables school districts to include “unstructured recreational time that is intended to develop teamwork, social skills, and overall physical fitness in any calculation of total instructional time or teaching hours.”

Committee Recommendation

The committee’s recommendation to the chief academic officer is for all elementary schools to provide a minimum of 30 minutes of daily recess. As staffing and resources allow, schools are encouraged to provide additional opportunities beyond the 30-minute minimum for unstructured activities and/or enrichment, to include but not limited to, additional recess time, makerspace/STEM activities, social play centers, etc.

The committee also felt it was important that the school division continue to explore opportunities for movement in the classroom; and that in the future schools should work, to the extent possible, at scheduling recess during optimal times within the school day.

Committee Work & Decision-Making Process

The committee met four times over a two month period to develop this recommendation. During those meetings, they learned about the new law, the benefits of recess, and the structure of an elementary school day. They also reviewed information gathered from a parent and teacher survey designed to provide feedback in regards to implementing changes to recess.

The recommendation was developed through an analytical process known as Decision Analysis, which was developed by TregoEd. The purpose of this step-by-step process is to help a group arrive at the best, balanced choice based on criteria agreed upon by the group.

Two criteria were identified as mandatory by the committee, meaning that if an alternative did not meet this criterion it was excluded. Mandatory criteria included:

  • Option is in congruence with national guidelines for recess (at least 20 minutes) for all students and increases recess for all students; and
  • Ability to provide required services for students with disabilities, gifted students, reading intervention, and English Learners.

The criteria weighted with the most value by the committee included:

  • Ability for students to participate in enrichment opportunities within the school day (STEM, Makerspace, enrichment block, additional resource, computer lab time, and unstructured play centers;
  • Minimizes likelihood that math/literacy blocks are split/broken, measured against YCSD models (math, literacy);
  • Parent support for recess option (survey); and
  • Teacher support for recess option (survey).

Additional criteria considered by the committee included:

  • Minimizes disruptions to school time/transitions;
  • Ability to schedule optimal playground time to avoid early or late slots and overcrowding; and
  • Minimizes exposure to the sun.

The committee immediately ruled out no change as an option based on the mandatory criteria established and began evaluating the other alternatives: 30-minute minimum recess, two 20-minute recesses, or one 40-minute recess. Based on the identified criteria, and the systematic Decision Analysis steps, the group arrived at a consensus and developed the recommendation statement.

Implementation Timeline

A superintendent’s regulation (JHC) has been developed to provide principals with guidance and expectations for implementing the new minimum standards. It is expected that all elementary schools will implement the new standards as soon as a possible, but no later than the end of second quarter.

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