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Carmel Clay Schools considers lengthening recess for elementary students

CARMEL, Ind. – A topic that has parents getting involved in their child's school district has gotten the eyes and ears of school officials. After a survey, district leaders are looking at possibly giving elementary students 30 minutes of recess each day.

During the fall, the district asked its stakeholders, "what are some important ideas or questions" the district should consider as it evaluates elementary programming across the district.

Of the 1,185 people who responded, the biggest response focused on the topic of extending recess time.

The entire study results can be found here

The district's board and other school officials began the discussion this week during a workshop, which is part of the school board's regularly scheduled meeting.

“We will have more discussion about the possibility," said interim superintendent Dr. Amy Dudley. "Looking here at these recommendations, I think it's very much supportive by extending the elementary day to at least seven hours."

According to Dudley, all Indiana elementary schools are required to have five hours of instructional time daily. Lunch and recess can't be a part of that total.

That's why the district has held a lengthy discussion about extending recess time, from 15 minutes to 30 minutes, by adding 30 extra minutes to each day.

"Our optimal day then would be plus or minus 420 minutes," said Dr. Martha McFarland, the district's director of curriculum, instruction and assessment, who led most of the workshop. "That leaves us short 30 to 45 minutes for what it is we would like to accomplish on behalf of elementary students."

However, many parents don't want the extra recess at the expense of extending the school day.

“It’s just disappointing that now they are actually looking at lengthening the academic time to be able to be able to provide for a few extra minutes of movement," said Shane Grotjan, a mother who has already moved a child to IPS due to how Carmel Clay handles recess.

She's part of a Facebook group, Carmel Recess Initiative, which has grown to more than 700 people. Most members want the extra recess time because of the benefits they believe their children will get with more time away from studying and the added social skills they'll learn on the playground.

Grotjan remains on the group because she has another child who will soon start kindergarten and the family needs to keep some options open for what school the child will attend.

Terri Cribb is a parent of two Carmel Clay students. Right now, she is fine with the extended day, as long as it means more time for her children to play.

“We’re trying to develop human beings who are emotionally sound and succeed in the world," she said. "That’s more than the facts in your head and how well you can analyze something. It’s getting along with other human beings. That’s what you’re trying to do on the playground.”

A district spokesperson said nothing is proposed that would change the length of a school day or how much time students will spend outside of the classroom, adding that the discussion has just begun.

The district plans to further discuss the issue at its next meeting on Monday, February 26. Dudley also said it would be discussed in March.

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