Polk parents bring recess issue to school board

Some Polk County parents are demanding more recess, not only to give students a break, but their teachers, too. Tuesday night, a group of parents and teachers told the School Board why those extra minutes are so crucial.

A petition that started last week has already gotten more than 2,000 signatures. They want to give all Polk County children the right to daily recess.

"Over 2,000, I am just completely blown away," said Amanda Lipham who started the petition. "Recess is a vital part of every child's education. It's what they need for development mentally, physically, socially."

All work and no play makes Kim Noble a frustrated mom. "It's one of those moments, like, how is that possible?" Noble said.

She said her son Aiden, a 3rd grader at Southwest Elementary hasn't gotten recess since 1st grade.  "20 minutes," Noble said. "I'm asking for 20 minutes. They have 25 for lunch; give them 20 minutes of play."

A few years ago, some Polk Schools started phasing out the traditional 20 minutes of recess a day so teachers could have more class time.

Recess is not a state requirement, but 150 minutes of physical education per week is required.  Any additional physical activity, such as recess, is decided by individual schools.

At Tuesday's school board meeting, parents and teachers stepped up to the mic to tell the district that when it comes to the recess issue, they're not playing.

"As an elementary teacher, I've learned that students are much more ready to absorb new information after taking a mental break," Cynthia Tan said.

"Teachers need their breaks as well," said Jeff Sheffield.

"This is not a request, we are demanding it," Noble said. "These are our children."

Superintendent Kathryn Leroy said a survey of elementary schools shows 79 percent offer recess in some form. Still, she and the board are open to looking at all schools.

"I know you have 2,000 signatures and I know it's important and it's a concern," Leroy said.

But, board member Kay Fields said she wants to take time to gather all the facts and make good decisions. "We need to do our homework so we know what is in place and fix it if it needs to be fixed," Fields said.

In just a week, Lipham said she's already seeing a difference.

"Even within Elliott's school, they've already made some changes," Lipham said. "I ask him every day if he has had outside time and he says yes, we've had P.E. or yes, we've had recess rather than only once a week."

FOX 13 checked with nearly every school district in the viewing area. Just like Polk County, they do not have any formal recess policies, leaving the decision up to the individual schools.

Superintendent Leroy said she plans to bring the issue of recess to a future work session where the school board will discuss and make a decision.