Do Kitsap Students Get Enough Recess?

This weekend, the Kitsap Sun will run a story on a bill to make recess a mandatory part of elementary students’ school days that is making its way through the state Legislature.

South Kitsap School District Superintendent Bev Cheney said educators in her district value free play time, but they don’t need a law to make it happen.

A related bill, SB 5265, would create an outdoor education and recreation grant program aimed at underserved children.

Sen. Rosa Franklin, D-Tacoma, the mandatory recess bill’s sponsor, said children in her district have been shortchanged on time for unstructured play because of pressure on schools to meet state academic learning standards.

In South Kitsap, elementary students get two 15-minute recess periods, plus a portion of their 30-minute lunch period to blow off steam, said Cheney.

Because of the state’s requirements for instructional time, South Kitsap schools have the option to rearrange or combine those time periods, and in some cases, students may have two longer recesses as opposed to three shorter play times, Cheney said.

Cheney said this is simply a matter of “practice” and not a hard and fast policy. It just seems like the right thing to do.

“From our standpoint, we’re looking at the whole child,” said Cheney. “We believe the kids need to have some time to play. They need to have that opportunity to get up, run around and be physical.”

The Washington State Board of Health has endorsed the bill saying fresh air and physical activity helps combat obesity, teaches children how to cooperate with one another and helps them focus better once they’re back in the classroom.

Kim Howard of the Washington State PTA said that for two years in a row, recess has ranked high on members’ list of concerns at the organization’s legislative assembly, coming in fifth in 2006 and eighth in 2007.

“Parents are concerned the schedule is so tight,” said Howard. “I think the districts are trying to shave time to make sure students are getting all the learning time they’re supposed to.”

But so far, said Howard, the evidence that this is happening is mostly anecdotal. She said her organization needs to gather more hard data on recess time in districts around the state in order to promote the bill, which was first introduced during the 2007 session.

What’s happening in Kitsap? If you’re a parent, does it seem like your children are getting less recess time than they used to, or than you used to when you were a child?

3 thoughts on “Do Kitsap Students Get Enough Recess?

  1. I realize that time moves faster as I get older, but my dim memory of grade school recesses is that there was enough time to play an entire real game, or for the girls to chase the boys (or vice versa) all around the playground and still have time to play on the swings or bars. Fifteen minutes does not sound like a very long recess, especially if it has to include a restroom visit and a drinking fountain trip.

    Maybe the school days should be longer, now that there is more to learn.

  2. The book titled “Last Child In the Woods” is a great resource for anyone who considers recess unimportant. In fact recess, free unstructured outdoor play is in fact just as important for the whole well being of a child both physically and mentally. Our children today are being pushed to achieve high WASL scores and we our children are losing the ability to be children and not only are their emotional health effected but physically we are life long challenges.

  3. Before anyone hyperventilates, be aware that recess has been a big deal in Senator Franklin’s district, which includes most of the City of Tacoma. The Tacoma School District has come out with some fairly unpopular rulings regarding recess. I doubt that she has Kitsap children at the forefront of her mind in this proposed legislation.

    Monty Mahan

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