The air outside is crisp and cool, but you can't go out and breathe it. The playground looks inviting, but you can't go play there.

Code Blue stinks.

That's what Washington-area school kids told us, after three weeks in which most of them have been under "Code Blue" lockdown status. That means they can't go outside for recess, after-school sports or other activities. Instead of recess on the playground, they're staying inside, chucking balls around their classrooms (if they're lucky).

"Indoor recess is so horrible," wrote Jacob Pine, 9, of Bethesda, in a letter to KidsPost. "It's so loud that if you were to measure the decibels it would probably measure up to 500!"

It's not just recess that's weird. Code Blue seeps into the whole day.

"At our school, we have to keep all the blinds down, all the time," said Barbara Burnett, a math teacher at Longfellow Middle School in Falls Church. "For the kids, it's like it's dark all day. Like it's night."

After a series of sniper attacks, schools are being extra careful. Until the shooter is caught, they're keeping kids inside to be safe.

But keeping them happy and comfortable is another story.

"We've got them doing board games, drawing, whatever they can to keep busy," said Earl Gaskins, vice principal of Burtonsville Elementary School in Montgomery County.

Message from kids to adults: Those board games are getting old.

"I miss outdoor recess because all we have to play is Connect Four, Uno, mancala and checkers. I really miss playing soccer and touch football," said Joshua Mann, 10, in an e-mail to KidsPost.

"Sometimes when I am at school in class I look out of the window and remember what it was like to play outside," said Joshua, of Fairfax.

Phys ed teachers have had a special challenge, having to squeeze large numbers of kids in the gymnasium. Sometimes they just don't fit.

Burnett remembers a day at Longfellow when there was a fund-raising activity taking up space in the gym. "The PE teacher had kids 'striding purposefully' through the hallways," she said.

Some kids said they kind of like indoor PE.

"We get to play 'Honesty' games. It's really like dodgeball, but with more people and more balls," said Nicholas Perry, 10, of St. Leonard. "Also, we do fitness testing."

Other kids say indoor PE and recess just don't cut it. They're not getting enough exercise.

"I have soccer practice after school for three hours and since we have been on lockdown/Code Blue I haven't been able to go to practice, and two of our games have been canceled," said Ashley Monahan, 14, of Upper Marlboro.

"I come home now and feel like a couch potato," she wrote us. "I do my homework and then just relax."

Portables, or modular classrooms, as they're sometimes called, pose another problem. Many don't have bathrooms.

"I hate Code Blue more than anything in the world. Having class in school is one thing, but being in a portable is another," said Jacob Pine. "I mean, we can't even go to the bathroom."

Nicholas Perry summed up the general feeling out there about Code Blue: "I do not like lockdown," he said. "I miss recess. I miss kickball and running around and having fun."

-- Fern Shen

Inside recess is loud and cramped, but at least some schools allow ball-playing.