OGDEN -- Older elementary school students in Ogden School District are getting less recess time. This year almost every elementary school in the district has cut out one recess for students in grades three through six and some schools have cut out the extra recess for all grades.
Students get one regular recess plus lunch recess. Before, students were getting a morning, afternoon and lunch recess. The reason? Administrators feel the students need more instructional time.
"Recess time is counted as instructional time," district spokeswoman Donna Corby said. Many of the elementary schools have tacked an extra 10 minutes on to lunch time to give the students the missing play minutes, but by cutting the recess it cuts down on the time it takes to get students ready to go outside -- things like gathering play supplies and going to the bathroom, plus the time it takes to get them settled with hands washed and ready to work.
"It's not just a 10-minute recess break. It turns out to be 20 or 25 minutes," Corby said.
Students do have separate physical education time where organized play is taught, but most schools offer that an average of 45 minutes per week -- not the core curriculum requirement of 115 minutes per week.
Geri Conlin, director of the physical education program at Weber State University, said most elementary schools don't meet the organized play physical education requirement, but losing a recess isn't necessarily productive.
"Kids need to get up and move," Conlin said. "Research shows they cognitively do better ... they shouldn't go for more than an hour without some kind of physical activity."
But Corby and Bonneville Principal Becky Hale said the instructional time lost with that second recess is vital for students.
"In Ogden we have students that need extra support and an increase in instructional time," Corby said.Hale likes that the longer lunch makes things less choppy in the day for teachers and students. Teachers have more time to bring a concept home.
Hale does recognize the need for organized play for her students as well. "They learn independence," she said. She tries to be flexible with teachers, and if they need to throw a recess in, it's OK. They also have provided teachers with 10-minute energizers that students can do in class.
She doesn't know if there is a direct correlation between exercising moderately before a test and success, but thinks sometimes it is necessary just for sanity's sake.
Conlin said it is very important.
"Every type of movement helps," she said. She noted that First Lady Michelle Obama's "Let's Move" initiative and website offer countless ideas for simple activities that can be done right from the classroom, but Conlin added that it shouldn't necessarily take the place of recess or especially organized physical education time.
"Teachers have all the skills they need (to teach P.E.), but whether they use those skills, we don't know," Conlin said. Sometimes principals have the notion that teachers are doing P.E. with their kids when they aren't, she added.
The simple reason is students are tested in math and reading, but not P.E., so teachers put their focus where the tests are. The resulting problem is that students are not prepared for any kind of organized sports when they enter junior high and high school, and only the students who have played on organized teams outside of school know how to play.
"It's almost like wearing a badge. You can tell who has played little league," Conlin said.
She realizes recess isn't always organized play, but sometimes playground monitors do work with students, and missing out on five recesses a week isn't great.
Corby said instructional time is also vital and students are always getting cut on that time with outside activities, and they need to find ways to make sure that instructional time is met.
"Teachers may choose to take students outside or for a bathroom or water break," Corby said. She knows principals try to work with teachers and meet the students' physical needs. The bottom line is the importance of flexibility, but to remember to get in as much instructional time as possible, she said.
Weber School District Spokesman Nate Taggart said the district has no plans of cutting any recesses for elementary students in his district.