Mother petitions to bring back recess

A Polk County mom is making a big push to bring recess back to elementary schools, and so far hundreds of people agree and have signed a petition asking school leaders to consider it.

Amanda Lipham started the petition on Saturday after weeks of hearing her son Elliot, 5, complain about going to school.

"He was saying he didn't want to go," Amanda explained. "And I asked him, 'did you go outside today?' And he would always say, 'no, no, we only go outside on Fridays.'"

The petition reads, "ALL of our Polk County School Children need to have the opportunity to expand their social skills and recharge their batteries with daily recess, so they are more receptive to learning when they get back in the classroom. Why are we treating them like machines, whose only purpose is to make a certain score on a certain test?! Give our kids the basic human right to breathe fresh air and enjoy the outdoors."

So far, hundreds of parents and teachers have signed it.

"I just really felt it was necessary for our children to have that time to play outdoors," Amanda said. "Outdoor play really increases their attention span. It helps out with them socially."

Polk County Public Schools issued the following statement through Acting Senior Coordinator Media Relations Jason Geary:

The School District has not directed schools to phase out recess. This is not a districtwide measure. Some schools have made reductions in providing daily recess (or what parents often consider free-play) based upon the instructional needs of their students. There are only so many hours in a day, and some administrators have reduced recess in order to provide more instructional time.

However, the District does ensure that all elementary students have a minimum of 150 minutes a week of physical education. This is a state requirement. Some schools have more. In addition, we provide our teachers with professional development in ways to integrate physical activity and exercise in their lessons to keep students active throughout the day. We encourage our teachers to use these instructional strategies that incorporate play as a form of learning.

The petition is addressed to State Senator Kelli Stargel and District 3 School Board Member Hazel Sellers.

"I don't know if recess it the answer," Sellers said. "Our lessons should be engaging. Lessons should be varied so that there is movement. Lessons sometimes should take place outside."

Sellers hopes the petition starts the conversation about productive recess time, and she invites the petitioner and parents to discuss it.