Parents say 15 minutes of recess – twice a week – is not enough

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GRAYSLAKE, Ill. -- A group of parents is pushing to expand school recess at Grayslake Middle School, where the district’s restrictive recess policy allows just two 15-minute breaks – a week.

“It’s pretty absurd,” said Jaime Johnson, who has a first grader and a second grader in elementary school in District 46.

“I think prisoners in a penitentiary get to go out in the yard every day. It’s crazy to me that little children – first, second third graders – are sitting inside all day,” Johnson said.

Johnson and other parents formed D46 Parents for Regular Recess, a group calling for kids in the district to play outside for at least 30 minutes every day. Fellow district parent Loralie Thomas says the schools’ policy of just two 15-minute breaks a week is unhealthy for kids.

“It’s time to have this discussion again,” Thomas said. She says lessons learned on the playground are also a vital part of childhood education.

“Kids need to develop problem-solving skills, social skills, learn how to get along, learn how to wait in line on the slide, and those kinds of things are not necessarily going to happen in an adult-led activity,” she said.

The recess issue dates back to a district-wide referendum almost 15 years ago which
scaled back “special” classes like music and art, and also cut recess in order to shorten the school day. Those special classes were restored after one year, but recess remained relatively restricted.

Kindergarten through fourth graders now have physical education classes three times a week, and recess just two times a week. The district says teachers also provide “movement breaks” throughout the day. From fifth through eighth grade, students have PE five times per week . The district says some classes also have morning activity periods.

There was a school board meeting about the issue Wednesday night, and members said they would review the policy but no decision was reached. In the meantime, parents in favor of recess have started a petition which has garnered around 260 signatures so far.

Superintendent Ellen Correll said in a statement: “we value the input from our community and look forward to partnering with them to continue the discussion of the physical and social needs of our students. This has been on our radar over the past year for consideration and review. We will be looking at the issues of time, implications, cost, supervision/staffing, scheduling and effects on our day.”

Parents say they’ll keep pushing, and won’t let the issue slide.

“I think that it’s a shame in a place that has such high property taxes as Lake County, parents are facing a situation where their kids aren’t getting recess at school,” Johnson said.