Students need more free time, parents tell school officials

Parents petition school board for more recess Cite students' 'intense schedules,' attention span problems

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By Patricia Keller

Citing certain students' intense schedules and lack of free time to socialize or be physically active, parents are asking school officials to increase both recess and lunch times.

Carolyn Ricciardi, who raised the subject at a Board of Education meeting in November, said she had conducted an informal survey on social media and 100 other parents indicated that they supported increasing recess.

She stated that students, particularly in grades 3 and up, have a big jump in curriculum, a more intense schedule, and little time to socialize freely or be active during the school day. She said these days children’s activities are typically restricted to after-school activities, which are often limited by financial constraints of families.

Ricciardi said her research on the matter revealed a significant increase observed in stress, anxiety, depression, feeling overwhelmed,and obesity in children at younger ages, and limited opportunities to practice social skills resulted in more inappropriate behaviors and difficulty developing problem solving and coping strategies. On the flip side, she said research shows that students who are physically active perform better academically, achieve better test scores, demonstrate better behavior, and more; and that students who are more active in school are also more active at home.

“I really want an effort to be made to fit it into the schedule,” Ricciardi said, adding that it could be done on a trial basis.

Then-Board President Jim Foody commented that he has read a lot of research on that as well, and that his son did his college thesis on the subject. Trustee Teresa Dwyer said that her master’s degree thesis was on the benefit of recess in elementary schools and middle schools.

Parent Mikah Almaleh spoke on the same issue, stating that he grew up in a different country, where they had 10-minute breaks between classes and one hour for lunch/recess. He said although one hour may be too much for the current system, he strongly believes that kids need to have at least five minute breaks with activity between classes. He referred to the limited attention spans of children, and said that even college courses are limited to 50 minutes for that reason. He suggested that the board could even consider extending the school day to be a half-hour longer to allow for the time needed for breaks.

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