March 8, 2017
To Parents and Guardians of Elementary Students in the Lower Merion School District:
During the course of the 2015-16 school year, I had the wonderful opportunity to serve the Lower Merion school community as the Interim Assistant to the Superintendent. I spent time with teachers and parents during the last school year discussing recess in our elementary schools. In the fall of 2016, I was asked to look more formally at recess and physical activity in the Lower Merion School District and to develop a recommendation for the school district. I met with teachers and recess staff, visited recess at each elementary school, and met with parent groups. The final recommendation has now been shared with Superintendent Copeland, the Board of School Directors and each elementary school. You can read the full recommendation by visiting the Lower Merion School District website or by accessing this link.
The four recommendations reflect a study of the current research and practice on recess and physical activity for elementary age students. These recommendations are:
- Add an additional fifteen (15) minute physical activity period for elementary students during the school day.
- Protect the recess and physical activity periods as a necessary part of the student day, not a privilege that can be taken away as a punishment.
- Develop a standard inclement weather policy to provide consistent guidelines for weather related decisions about outdoor recess.
- Continue to provide training for recess staff using the Responsive Classroom Model.
I want to add some context and clarity to the first three recommendations based on conversations with elementary principals, teachers and staff.
The Physical Activity Period
The recommendation for the physical activity (PA) period will be implemented in all elementary schools during the month of March. This period is meant to be a cognitive break in the school day. That break will not look the same across grade levels or schools. It is dependent on the work of each grade level to schedule this period at a time that will be least intrusive to instruction and other scheduled activities. The period will not come from any of the established special periods – art, music, physical education, library or FLES. When weather and space permit, an outside period is the preferred way to provide this PA period, but teachers will have the flexibility to implement this recommendation in the classroom, depending on their schedule and the availability of outside space. Penn Valley Elementary School has already implemented this physical activity period. Teachers at the other five elementary schools will be working with principals to find time in the school day to implement this recommendation.
Protecting Recess and Physical Activity
Students should not be kept from recess and the PA period as a consequence for their behavior in school or their classroom. While this is the general recommendation, there will be occasions when teachers may use time away from recess as a just consequence, in which case the teacher should be in communication with the parents or guardians to explain the circumstances surrounding his or her decision. There will also be times when teachers may need to work in small groups with students to remediate or reteach during the recess period, which is within their discretion and should be clearly distinguished from a decision to remove student from recess as a consequence for misbehavior. During the recess period, it is appropriate for staff to use a “time out” judiciously to redirect behavior on the playground.
Elementary Principals have collaborated this year on the parameters for outdoor recess. Outdoor temperatures that reflect a wind-chill at 20 degrees or lower will be considered the threshold for considering an indoor recess period – either for the entire recess time or for a portion of that time. Other considerations – such as rain, snow or wind – will also be considered when making indoor recess decisions. Elementary principals will continue to collaborate to outline the details of a consistent inclement weather policy.
The physical activity period will be implemented for the remainder of this school year. The effectiveness of this new initiative will be reviewed in May to plan for any revisions necessary for the 2017-18 school year.
Should you have any questions, you should feel free to direct them to me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Mark J. Klein