Roanoke County School Board will vote on a new recess policy Thursday giving elementary school kids in Roanoke County more unstructured time for play.
“Lots of kids have stress at home, and really the only safe place they have to play is at school,” said Allison Bowersock, founder of More Recess for the Roanoke Valley.
The new policy comes after other districts in Southwest Virginia, like Montgomery County, have either doubled and or extended time already.
The proposed guidelines state: “A minimum of 40 minutes of recess for students in all elementary grade levels on days that the students’ class does not attend Physical Education class. A minimum of 20 minutes of recess for students in all elementary grade levels on days at the students’ class attends their Physical Education class.The 40 minutes of recess, on days that the students’ class does not attend Physical education class, should be divided into two 20-minute periods whenever possible.”
In the event of bad weather, active classroom activities and free play in the classroom is an alternative.
Bowersock says unstructured time outside is beneficial for young kids.
“Unstructured time is really the best because you facilitate executive functioning,” said Bowersock.
“Decision making, problem solving and things like that where you don’t dictate to children what decisions are being made like they determine that themselves – that’s really the height of learning.”
Another big change, perhaps the biggest, according to Bowersock, is unstructured physical activity should not be taken away for disciplinary reasons or to complete make-up work as it is a mandatory part of a student’s instructional time.
The proposed guidelines state: “An exception to this guideline would be if the student commits a disciplinary infraction during recess, and must be removed from their current environment for the safety of that child and/or other students. In this case, the teacher can provide a more structured activity for that student so that he or she can still be active.”
“Now, we have less time in the morning and the evening for them to play at home so really the bulk of hours they can have an outlet for physical activity is at school,” said Bowersock.
“It’s a safe place to play. It’s really the ideal time for kids to have some socialization, some fun, and to let their brains have a break.”
The Roanoke County School Board will vote on the policy change Thursday night.