Carmel Clay Schools parents ask for more recess – again

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In the spring of 2013, a group of concerned parents asked the Carmel Clay Schools board of trustees at a public meeting to add recess time for elementary students beyond the 15 minutes allotted per day.

Six years later, they did it again.

Eleven mothers of CCS elementary students spoke at the March 25 school board meeting, asking for more unstructured playtime for the district’s youngest students and questioning why it appears little has been done to address the issue since they first brought it up several years ago.

“Increased recess needs to happen for the upcoming school year,” CCS parent Terri Cribb said. “Based on the board’s lack of performance in the last several years related to recess, it has unfortunately earned an F in handling of this issue.”

Several speakers pointed to research by the American Academy of Pediatrics, which does not recommend a certain amount of time for recess but notes that most schools offer 20 to 60 minutes per day. The 2013 AAP policy statement outlines the cognitive, social, emotional and physical benefits of unstructured play.

“Either the science is not believed or the science is being ignored,” said Laura Steiner, a mother of two children at Smoky Row Elementary. “We might not know the perfect amount of recess time right now, but we do know that the way the day is now is not optional.”

A few years ago, former CCS Supt. Nicholas Wahl began allowing teachers to provide additional recess time or classroom breaks at their discretion. Smoky Row parent Lisa Washburn described this as a “step in the right direction” but pointed out that in a recent CCS survey about changes to elementary school programming the No. 1 request was more time for recess.

The school board typically does not immediately respond to issues raised during the public comment portion of the meeting, but Supt. Michael Beresford, who joined CCS in July 2018, said at the meeting that the district has been studying the issue for months as part of a review of the daily school start and end times for all students.

CCS officials have discussed the possibility of switching school start times for elementary and secondary students, a change Westfield and Noblesville schools are making for the 2019-20 school year. The district could also lengthen the school day, Beresford said, which could lead to more recess time and give teachers greater flexibility. CCS added 10 minutes to the school day beginning in mid-February to make up for weather cancellations, and Beresford said it has allowed teachers to provide more time for social/emotional learning and meet other needs.

Beresford said after spring break CCS plans to electronically send examples of what a revised school schedule could look like to parents and teachers to gather feedback.

Whatever is decided, Beresford said changes will not be immediate.

“We would not be making any changes to the school day for next year, mostly because this is a very complicated process,” he said.

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