We support extending the school day from 6hrs to 6hrs 45min, if and only if, the following points are guaranteed by the district's wellness policy:
· Forty (40) minutes (ideally two 20 min blocks) of recess for all elementary students
· A minimum of 20 minutes for lunch, after seating. A minimum of 10 minutes must be allotted as transition time. Additional transition time must be scheduled, if required, to ensure compliance with a 20-min seated lunch time for all students, those who bring lunch from home and who get school lunch.
Why I started this petition...
(These are MY thoughts, if you agree with the above, please sign the petition and share your own reasons in the comments.).
I want to give time for recess and lunch back to our students, time that most parents had ourselves as children. And I would like to protect that time as sacrosanct.
Our child is in kindergarten at the Peabody school, and our youngest will enter JK in 2020. Our family is dedicated to public education; my husband is an educator, and we are thrilled to be a part of the Cambridge Public Schools. When I asked my child, what is one thing he would do to improve his school, he said, without hesitation, "more recess." I asked, anything else? "A hot chocolate fountain in the music room." :) He agreed to settle for more time to eat lunch.
Lunch and recess time are both equity issues, which is what brings them to the forefront of my concerns. Ours is a wonderful district, with so many resources and rich diversity. Our district also has much need, and great work to do in addressing inequity and bias.
Many parents have reported their children don't have time to finish their lunch, either bringing food home uneaten, themselves reporting being hungry, etc. Many students and educators have noticed that students getting lunch at the cafeteria have even less time to eat, due to the lunch line. This is true in Cambridge and in most districts in the US. Students receiving free school lunch don't have the option of bringing lunch from home, and school lunch may be the best meal of their day.
Recess is also an equity issue. Families with fewer resources are less likely to have the option of outdoor free play after school. Outdoor free play is important to the minds and bodies of our children. Increased recess time makes students less prone to discipline problems. And since students of color are more often disciplined than their white peers, this is a critical issue for equity in education.
I know the CPS District is aware of these issues. School districts across the US struggle with pressure to pack more and more into a finite day, and, too often, time for recess and lunch have been the "something.. that has to give." In a world of standardized testing, it can be hard to see the connection between playground games and learning. But the research shows it's there. It's also nice to say that we have 20 minutes for lunch. But are we ignoring the reality of the time it takes for large groups of children to move from classrooms to the lunchroom, then to their table with lunch box or cafeteria tray, and maybe wash their hands along the way? My sources say, yes.
I believe greater recess time will also free up some critical time for our educators to plan and collaborate. If recess supervision is well planned, classroom teachers could use that time to meet with special educators, OT, PT, etc. I know from our own family how much time educators put in off-hours (my husband is an SLP and as I was drafting this on a Friday night, he switched between helping me with some wording, and working on his computer). And surely our teachers could use a bit more time to eat their own lunches, as well.
Thank you for reading. Please share your own thoughts in the comments and/or by emailing Dr. Salim and the School Committee.