The Washington Post

Prince George’s charter school wants to get rid of recess

College Park Academy, a charter school in Prince George’s County, wants to shorten its day by 25 minutes -- not to reduce classroom instruction, but to get rid of recess.

Charter school officials have asked the school system to approve a waiver to change the school’s schedule to eliminate daily recess.

The charter agreement calls for a 7.5 hour-long day, from 8:25 a.m. to 3:55 p.m. School will end at 3:20 p.m. without recess.

Schools Chief Kevin M. Maxwell has signed off on the waiver, but the charter needs approval from the Board of Education, which is scheduled to vote on the request Thursday night.

Principal Bernadette Ortiz-Brewster could not be reached for comment Thursday morning.

According to the resolution, students at College Park Academy have had recess since the school first opened a year ago. But school officials say recess is “uncommon” for middle school students in Prince George’s County.

Several parents balk at the idea of getting rid of recess at the school, which offers an early-college program and has ties to the University of Maryland because, they said, the students in the rigorous program need some time to interact with each other.

“These kids are on the computer all day long,” said Gayatri Varma, whose son is an eighth-grader at the school. “Kids need down time.”

Varma said her daughter, who recently graduated from Eleanor Roosevelt High School, did not have recess at Hyattsville Middle School but she had a full period for lunch, which gave her more social time.

The move by College Park is not uncommon.

Concerned about safety and in some cases questioning its merits, school districts across the country have over the years either banned certain games that can be played during recess, including tag, or have gotten rid of the play time entirely.

The American Academy of Pediatrics called recess a “crucial and necessary component of a child’s development” in a policy statement made in 2012.

After recess, “students are more attentive and better able to perform cognitively . . . recess helps young children to develop social skills that are otherwise not acquired in the more structured classroom environment.” The academy said “unstructured” recess helps children manage stress and helps to lower the risk of obesity.

Alex Heitkemper, a parent whose ninth-grader now attends private school, said he didn’t think College Park’s request was unusual but he still didn’t like it.

“Doesn’t it go against some of what Michelle Obama has been pushing?” he said. “These kids are pent up and never have the opportunity to relax. Whatever happened to free time?”

Ovetta Wiggins covers Maryland state politics in Annapolis.



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