Mandatory Elementary School Recess Approved

NEWARK – After weeks of debate, the Worcester County Board of Edcuation this week voted to make recess mandatory in county public elementary schools, despite concerns the policy change could cut into much needed instructional time.

The school board voted 6-1 on Tuesday to adopt the mandated recess policy after it was brought to the attention of Board of Education officials earlier this fall there was no regularly scheduled recess at Pocomoke Middle School.

Prior to Tuesday’s vote, whether to have daily recess for students in pre-K to 5th grades was up to the discretion of the administrators of the various schools, although there were guidelines in place on the issue.

After the positive vote on Tuesday, the approved measure makes setting aside time for daily recess mandatory in all county elementary schools with students from pre-K to 5th grades. The only dissenting vote came from Board member Garry Mumford, who voiced concern about the mandated change cutting into instructional time.

“Many people will be happy with this, but my biggest concern is that we don’t jeopardize the success of our students, especially African-American students, by taking away important instructional time with mandated recess,” he said. “All of our communities and schools are different, and I’m concerned we’re micro-managing this to the point we take away from their ability to tailor their programs and policies to meet their specific needs. We need to make sure we don’t lose ground on the successes we’ve gained in the last few years.”

The issue was brought to the school board earlier this fall by concerned parents of children in Pocomoke Middle, which did not offer daily recess, unlike most of their counterparts in the county. The parents submitted a petition containing 174 signatures to the school board seeking a restoration of recess at the school. 

At an earlier school board meeting, the concerned parents offered a presentation suggesting schools offering recess have less discipline issues and actually saw an increase in academic performance.

The presentation suggested kids who got an opportunity to rest and clear their heads in the middle of the day would more be capable of learning in the afternoon than those faced with a seven- to eight-hour block of study.

Board President Bob Hulburd said the approved change would be closely monitored.

“We’ve heard from parents on both sides of this issue,” he said. “Our primary goal is to educate kids and we want to continue that. We’ll have to keep an eye on how these changes affect that.”