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OSD to review recess and free play

After parents appeared before the Oxford School District Board in February asking the members to look at the district’s recess and free-time structure, a report was presented to the board in April that made suggestions on how to add more free time for middle- and intermediate-school students.

At the February board meeting, recess advocate Whitman Smith said there is a distinction between physical education classes that have a structured setting and recess time. Students are sitting still and quiet for hours of class and sometimes their recess time is cut into to complete assignments. At Oxford Intermediate School, students have no recess at all.

Smith said due to the evidence that proves recess is valuable, students should be entitled to a reasonable amount of time for recess.

Curriculum directors and principals from the Oxford Middle and Intermediate schools worked on the report for students in grades five through eight.

Recommendations for the Intermediate School included incorporating Move to Learn fitness breaks one time during the day for 10 minutes. Move to Learn is a fitness program aimed at children to help stimulate their brains and help reduce pent up energy. Other suggestions include having specials include one day of recess that would allow free time when weather permits on the practice field located behind Scott Center and add an additional 30 minutes of physical education per week. However, it would require a 30-minute reduction in planning time for teachers. The report also suggested adding five minutes to the school’s 25-minute lunch period and encourage movement in the classrooms.

According to the report, seven students were wearing FitBits to monitor how many steps they took during the day. The figures were compiled based on tracking three students in fifth grade and four students in sixth grade. The fifth graders traveled about 4,882 steps a day on average, which equals 1.8 miles. The sixth graders walked about 3,985 steps a day, equaling 1.5 miles. A sixth-grade band student walked an average of 7,153 steps, or 3 miles.

Recommendations for middle school students included: conducting professional development on the kinesthetic classroom — administrators will provide the training to discuss how teachers can incorporate breaks during class periods; use Move to Learn for Tier 2 and 3 students; continue to allow students to choose from a variety of club activities each week, including yoga, recycling, knitting and more; continue to offer physical therapy; color guard, girls basketball, cheerleading and up to 16 organized athletic teams.

Good suggestions

Superintendent Brian Harvey said most of the suggestions for the intermediate school could be done without adding time to the school day.

“But it will require a loss of planning time for the teachers,” he said. “We are still looking at instructional time and required time for health and physical education.”

Schools have freedom to set their schedule as long as they meet the instructional requirements set forth in the board policy.

Board member Gray Edmondson asked how were the parents’ concerns of more unstructured time addressed.

“The 30 minutes added each week addresses that,” Jeff Clay, director of secondary curriculum and instruction who presented the report. “We are also considering adding five minutes to the lunch period, which is now 25 minutes.”

Harvey said the next step is for administrators to develop their school schedules for the upcoming year, with the requirements of school district and state Board of Education.