MOUNT VERNON — Following conversations that have emerged from concerned parents and community members from Wiggin Street Elementary School at Mount Vernon City School board of education meetings, time allotments for recess and art, music, physical education, library and technology classes, or “specials,” have come into question.
“We have heard now from the same group of concerned parents relative to two essential questions: Specials time (Art/PE/Music/Library) that was reduced from 50 minutes to 40 minutes,” MVCSD Superintendent Bill Seder explained in a written statement. “The merits of that decision has been discussed at length both with Dr. Dill [Wiggin Street elementary school principal] and at the past two board meetings. The question we keep hearing is why? What is the research behind that decision? Dr. Dill increased the time allotted to math from 60 minutes per day to 90 minutes per day. He did this at Columbia [elementary school] and when he realized they only spent 60 minutes a day on Math, he increased it to 90 minutes to match the allotted time for English.
“With limited number of minutes per school day when you add time in one area you have to adjust or lose time in another. We can certainly have a debate, as we have, about what area loses time and what area gains time. In the end Dr. Dill met with parents and staff and determined that the reduction of specials time need to be readjusted and better aligned with the other buildings in the district of 45 minutes.”
Across the county, most other districts remain consistent with their time allotments for the specials classes.
Superintendent Matthew Chrispin at Fredericktown explained that students at Fredericktown Elementary School receive 40 minutes per day with one of the specials classes of art, physical education, music and library sessions, amounting to 40 minutes per week for each individual class.
Chrispin explained that the students receive a 20-minute recess at lunch and a 15-minute recess in the afternoon, totaling 35 minutes a day.
East Knox elementary school students also have a four day rotation for the specials classes, Principal Cody Reese explained to the News. Kindergarten through sixth-grade has a total of 37 minutes for each specials class, he said. Additionally, with library sessions, 3-6 grades are given a keyboarding session within the rotation, but K-2 are not.
All K-6 students receive 30 minutes of recess a day, Reese said.
John Morgan, principal at Centerburg Elementary School, explained that his students attend library, music, computer art and physical education classes once a week as well, with kindergarten having specials sessions that are 30 minutes long; first through third grades have specials that are 40 minutes long and fourth and fifth grades attend 45-minute-long specials classes.
Danville Local Schools also devote 40 minutes per day to specials classes, Superintendent Jason Snively told the News.
Additionally students on average are given 20 minutes of recess in the morning and 20 minutes in the afternoon, he said, but it varies by grade level, as fourth and fifth grade students receive 10 minutes less.
Students in kindergarten through fourth grade receive 30 minutes of recess a day, Morgan said, with fifth grade getting 20 minutes at the end of the day. He explained that kindergarten receives an additional 15 minute recess in the morning.
Recess has also been a point of contention with parents at Wiggin Street Elementary School. The school allows a minimum of 30 minutes at lunch for full-school recess, but students could potentially have more time based on how quickly they finish their lunch, Dill said.
The change comes in regards to afternoon recess, which is now only allowed for students in kindergarten and first grade. The afternoon session of recess was eliminated this year for grade 2-5 students.
Dill also explained that all students have the option to arrive at school for an 8:30 a.m. breakfast and be released to the playground starting at 8:40 a.m. for a recess before the school day starts.
To remedy the concerns of parents and community members, Seder explained, “with regards to recess time: We have asked each building to review and share with the district the amount of recess per day. We will also be sending out a survey to teachers to get their input on recess time and expectations. Once completed we will share that information with the board and community.”