Decatur School Board will review policy that says recess could be withheld as punishmentElizabeth Wilson School Support Center, City Schools of Decatur. Photo by Dean Hesse.
This story has been updated.
Decatur, GA — At the Aug. 9 Decatur School Board meeting, board members will discuss a proposed recess policy for students.
One idea that’s already generating some concern among parents: taking recess away from kids as punishment.
The draft policy says, “Each elementary school shall schedule recess for all students in kindergarten and grades one through five every school.”
The draft policy also says, “Breaks may be withheld from students for disciplinary or academic reasons if prior notice of such is provided to the students.” It’s unclear from the policy draft whether this would apply to all students or just grades 6 through 8.
Superintendent Maggie Fehrman says that the policy will not be voted on tonight and that she does not personally support taking away recess as punishment. She explained that the board is reverting to an old governance model and that each policy needs to be reviewed.
There’s a new state law that makes recess mandatory for elementary students, but provides some exceptions, according to the Associated Press. There’s a growing movement around the country to protect recess and in 2013, the American Academy of Pediatrics said, “recess is a crucial and necessary component of a child’s development and, as such, it should not be withheld for punitive or academic reasons.”
One parent concerned about the new policy wrote to Fehrman called the idea “shocking.”
She forwarded Fehrman’s response to Decaturish. The superintendent said the policy was being reviewed by the board and nothing had been decided yet.
“This policy is only up for discussion this evening, and the board will not be voting to approve this policy tonight,” Fehrman said. “As the board is transitioning back to normal board governance from the previous model, they must review the standard policy language drafted for us by [the Georgia School Boards Association]. At the meeting this evening, the board will make recommendations to edit the draft to fit with what works for City Schools of Decatur. After the draft is edited with the suggestions from the Board, the draft will be reviewed again prior to the board voting to approve the policy.”
Fehrman later told Decaturish the school board is in the process of reverting to a standard policy manual and governance structure rather than having a model with ends policies. She added that CSD is aligned with all state laws and required policies.
“In 2018 the board adopted a new policy manual that was structured under a different type of policy governance, called the Carver Model. In this model, the board sets ‘Ends’ policies and delegates a great deal of autonomy to the CEO,” Fehrman said. “The manual that was adopted, is not one that the Georgia School Boards Association (GSBA) recommends, as it also does not align with many of the state-required policies. Therefore, the current Board elected to revert back to a standard policy manual and governance structure that was in place prior to the adoption of this 2018 manual. The board made this decision, so CSD is fully aligned with all state laws and required policies, as well as using a governance structure that is supported by GSBA. Also, speaking as a fidgety person, who also needs to get up and take short walks throughout the day, I would not support removing recess for children and I even encourage stretch breaks and walks for every student and staff member in our system.”
For more information about tonight’s meeting, including instructions for how to weigh in via public comments, click here.
Here’s the full language of the policy being considered:
Each elementary school shall schedule recess for all students in kindergarten and grades one through five every school day; provided, however, that recess shall not be required on any school day on which a student has had physical education or structured activity time or if reasonable circumstances impede such recess, such as inclement weather when no indoor space is available, assemblies or filed trips exceeding their scheduled duration, conflicts occurring at the scheduled recess time over which the classroom teacher has no control, or emergencies, disasters, or acts of God.
The Board allows the scheduling of unstructured break time for students in grades 6 through 8 at the discretion of the school principal.
The school principal is authorized to determine the length, frequency, timing, and location of breaks. In determining the schedule for recess or unstructured break time for students, the principal shall consult with appropriate instructional personnel at the school and system level, as appropriate, to ensure that break time does not interfere with and provides support for academic learning. The principal shall also issue directions concerning the responsibility for supervision of students so that break time will be a safe experience for them.
Breaks may be withheld from students for disciplinary or academic reasons if prior notice of such is provided to the students.
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