By Terry Rogers
On Monday, January 27 the Milford School District Board of Education voted unanimously to add unstructured free play to Board Policy 6116, which is the Student Wellness Policy: Goals for Physical Activity section of district rules and regulations. The vote was in response to a petition presented by parents at the November 25 board meeting in 2013.
The board policy now reads that “The district will provide a full 20 minutes of unstructured free play, per full school day, for students in grades K-5.” According to Dr. Phyllis Kohel, Supertintendent of Milford School District, this means that students will now have a full 20 minutes on the playground.
“Teachers will not include the time that it takes to prepare students for recess in their play time,” Dr. Kohel explained. Although students in elementary grades did receive a period of recess, in many cases, significant time was used for bathroom stops, putting on coats and heading to the playground or gym for unrestricted play. In some cases, this meant that students only received five or ten minutes of recess each day, which some parents found unacceptable.
Parent of two district students and the creator of the online petition to extend recess, Mark Carter, presented the petition to the board last November. “Although there was not a lot of discussion at that meeting, it opened a dialog between the parents and the board,” said Carter. “We were able to sit down with Dr. Kohel, the president of the school board, principals from the elementary schools and teachers where there was a great exchange of information. The teachers explained that they look forward to recess, but with state mandates they had to be very creative in order to fit it all in.”
Mr. Carter explained that parents requested a thirty minute recess each day, but he felt that the twenty minutes voted by the board was a good start. “It is now part of board policy so it cannot be eliminated,” said Mr. Carter. “Some parents are still pushing for the thirty minutes we originally requested, and it is possible the board will revisit that issue for the next school year. However, we are pleased that the district heard our concerns and made an adjustment that we feel will not only benefit students, but benefit teachers as well.”
Mr. Carter said that Dr. Kohel did significant research before meeting with the parents and school officials, presenting them with statistics throughout the state of what other districts were doing as far as research. The research showed that recess times throughout the state are inconsistent, with some districts offering no recess to students, while others offer 30 minutes.
“What Dr. Kohel found is that our neighboring districts, Cape Henlopen and Lake Forest, are able to get a thirty minute recess period in each school day,” he explained. “That means that if those districts can do it, we feel Milford can eventually get to that point as well. For now, we are pleased that the students will at least have twenty minutes each day of unrestricted play which research shows is critical to their ability to focus on learning.”