GAMBIER — The Mount Vernon City Schools board of education held its monthly meeting Monday evening at Wiggin Street Elementary School, where Superintendent Bill Seder presented his results from the district-wide recess survey.
Wiggin Street has previously been a topic of interest at board meetings, as parents and community members have come forward expressing dissatisfaction with alterations made to the school’s recess schedule, which has removed afternoon recess for students in grades 2-5.
“In my previous 8 1/2 years as an elementary principal and 4 1/2 years as a superintendent, I have never worked with an elementary school that has had a scheduled afternoon recess for Grades 2-5,” Wiggin Street Elementary School Principal Dr. Matthew Dill previously told the News.
All students at Wiggin Street currently have the option to arrive early for school, where they can eat breakfast and engage in a before-school recess session, which begins each day at 8:40 a.m. All students also have at least 30 minutes of recess during lunch, but they could have as much as 45 minutes during lunch, as they are given the option to be dismissed 15 minutes into the lunch period, Dill shared with the News. Students in Kindergarten and first-grade additionally have a 10 minute recess in the afternoon.
Seder explained during the board meeting that 93 responses were submitted to the district recess survey, representing all six elementary schools in the district.
“We’ve had some good conversations over the last couple of months regarding recess,” Seder said. “Trust me, that does not go unnoticed by the board or by myself, so we’ve asked lots of questions and we ended up doing a survey. We feel we have lots of local experts in the way of teachers who can share their wisdom with us.”
The survey asked the participants to label the grade level they teach, whether or not they like having indoor/outdoor activities prior to the start of school; whether or not they think morning recess, before lunch, is necessary for students and an appropriate length of time; whether or not students have adequate time for recess during lunch time; whether or not they think afternoon recess, after lunch, is necessary and an appropriate length of time; whether or not they have flexibility in their day to give students breaks or recesses when they feel it is needed; and if they incorporate physical activity into their instructional day.
Seder reported 90 percent of the responses indicated that teachers liked having indoor/outdoor activity prior to the start of the school day.
The question of morning recess was “fifty-fifty,” Seder said. The rate of yes responses to that questions was much higher amongst K-2 teachers, but with older students in grades 3-5, teachers did not feel quite the same need for a morning recess, he said. Half of the yes responses also felt that 15 minutes was an appropriate amount of time, versus 10 or 20 minutes.
There was an “overwhelming yes” response to the question of adequate time at lunch for recess, Seder reported to the board.
“It feels like at lunchtime, in the entire district, there’s this hour block of eating and activity,” Seder said.
The question of afternoon recess posed more interesting results, Seder said, as three-quarters of the teachers responded that there is a need for a break in the afternoon for activity, with 64 percent reporting 15 minutes to be ample time for the recess.
Seder explained that most principals in the district will allow teachers to take an afternoon recess if they feel it is necessary for their students, but places the impetus on the teacher to watch all of their students on the playground. Of responses, 60 percent indicated that they felt free to take an afternoon recess as needed, Seder reported, but about 15 percent questioned whether they actually could.
Approximately 80 percent of the surveyed teachers indicated that they incorporate physical activity into their instructional time, Seder reported. The additional 20 percent who did not include physical activity included intervention specialists and other specialty teachers who work within limited time-frames, Seder said. The instructional physical activity could include a new craze called “Go Noodle,” which is a video dance program to get kids moving.
“I feel this is all good information,” Seder said. “All of this came about because of good conversation over the last couple of months, and I wanted to share that with all of you and I hope you found some value in that.”
All of the information gathered from the survey will be shared with all of the teachers, Seder said.
“I’m always happy to get feedback,” Dill told the News. “It’s always nice to hear feedback and different perspectives and make decisions based on that, along with our experience and expertise. I hope so, [that the recess issue is resolved] because we’ve listened and we’ve observed and evaluated, and re-evaluated, and made some decisions based on it. And to be honest, I’m with the kids every day, speaking with the kids, interacting with the kids, the kids are doing great, and that’s what really matters.”