Mohegan parents petition to get recess back

Parents at Mohegan Elementary School are circulating a petition regarding changes made to school recess and last week asked the Board of Education for its support.

Parents came before the board at last Wednesday’s meeting to voice opposition to changes to the school day schedule, resulting in cutting recess from five days to three days a week.

“Prior to this September students had recess every day for a minimum of 20 minutes, five days a week,” Mohegan parent Lisbeth Condo said to the board. “This year recess has been eliminated two days a week and reduced to 15 minutes.”

It’s not just the cut to recess but also the way it has been staggered, Condo said. Her fourth grader has recess after being in school for just an hour and the first grade students don’t have recess until 3 p.m., she said.

Aimee Cayer is also helping to circulate copies of the petition.

“We are the only elementary school in town that this affected and we don’t know why,” Cayer said.

Condo said parents were not told about the change until well into the school year in a newsletter, and were told  the school is incorporating more short bursts of physical activity during the day and more time for art, music and gym.

“That’s not a mental break, you are being told what do to and how to do it,” Condo said of gym and energy bursts.

Waking her daughter up for school on non-recess days is very difficult, she said. Condo, who owns a day care center, said she is worried about how losing recess will affect child development and overall well-being.

“The education going on there is fantastic,” Condo said of Mohegan, “but this scheduling issue needs to be addressed.”

Cayer said the first thing her children told her after the first day back at school was that recess had been cut. She said it is particularly difficult for the first grade students, because many of them came from half-day kindergarten programs and now have to go a whole school day with no downtime.

“Imagine if you had a day where every minute was accounted for, with no chance to take a break,” Cayer said to the board last week. “We ask that you intervene in this, for the well-being of our children.”

But not all parents are against the change.

Faith Gydus also spoke, offering a different opinion on the recess cut.

“Not all parents are represented in that petition,” Gydus said. “Last year there were many concerns with the cafeteria process, with not enough time for kids to eat and too much time in line. There has been a huge improvement with that from last year.”

Gydus said the new recess schedule works better and there are fewer playground accidents.

“Playground accidents have gone down from 28 to seven in September alone,” she said.

Gydus said Principal Anne Hamilton has made Mohegan a better school and she doesn’t agree with the negativity surrounding recess.

Condo said parents are split on the change but she and others will continue to try to get recess back to five days a week.

“The kids need their break,” Condo said. “It seems so inappropriate as adults that we have laws to make sure we get breaks at work but there isn’t something for kids.”

Cayer said the parents against the cut will continue to circulate the petition and have sent letters to Superintendent Freeman Burr and the Board of Education.

“We also want to get the word out to parents at other schools,” Cayer said. “If it started with us this year, maybe you’re next.”