St. Michael-Albertville’s elementary school students in grades 1-4 are in school for 6 hours and 30 minutes per day. About 20 minutes of that day is set aside for recess, which takes place just before students head into the lunchroom. Middle school students receive 30 minutes for a combined recess and lunch period, with fifth grade students receiving 37 minutes.
Some district parents have expressed concern to the school board that the current recess durations are not sufficient. In response, the board will be hearing a report on recess at the coming meeting, which takes place at 7 p.m. Monday, Aug. 15 in the Middle School West boardroom.
STMA’s kindergarteners have 10 more minutes of recess time than in the three elementary schools, and their school day is also 15 minutes shorter. The kindergartener’s recess duration is more similar, though still shorter, to neighboring Buffalo/Hanover/Montrose and Monticello school districts. The Buffalo district has a 6 hour, 40 minute school day that includes a 20-minute first recess and a 15- minute “stretch” recess in the afternoon. The Monticello district’s two elementary schools differ, with one K-5 elementary having a 35 minute first recess and a second recess on Fridays during the warmer months of school, while their other elementary has a 30 minute first recess and a teacher’s option for a second, slightly shorter recess in the afternoon. Monticello’s students have a 6 hour, 40 minute school day.
The Elk River school district, which also includes Rogers, Otsego and Zimmerman, runs its recess as STMA does, with a 20-minute recess for elementary students across the board.
STMA superintendent Dr. Ann-Marie Foucault said that in addition to recess, movement in the classroom is a “crucial component of balanced learning that STMA wholeheartedly embraces.”
“STMA teachers infuse movement into instruction in a thoughtful and purposeful manner to increase student learning and enhance engagement,” she said.
She listed physical education, SMART rooms at the kindergarten level, transitions between classrooms/activities, learning activities such as drama, roll plays, energizers, games and motor breaks as other ways students engage in physical activity during the day.
The American Academy of Pediatrics has not issued an opinion on the number of minutes students should spend in recess per day, but did state its opinion that recess should be considered a necessary break from the demands of school and should involve free, unstructured play or activity.
The AAP also recommended that recess never be withheld as a punishment, as it says recess “serves as a fundamental component of development and social interaction that students may not receive in a more complex school environment.” Current STMA policy states that teachers can withhold recess from students at their discretion.
A Change.org petition is currently circling social media, with more than 220 signatures thus far in favor of increasing recess time for STMA students in grades K-8.