Recently some elementary parents have raised a concern that students were not allowed to have an outdoor recess on certain cold weather days.
We all recognize that “recess” is an important element of the school day. It provides an opportunity for students to get a break from academics and to burn off excess energy through exercise. Current “time and learning” regulations as well as the curriculum demands of school limit the amount of time we can allow for recess at this time.
Outdoor recess is desirable in most instances because it changes the environment and provides a fresh air opportunity to students. However there are significant reasons to keep students indoors when weather conditions are adverse. There is no national standard for keeping students indoors for school recess. As a result site principals make the decision based upon local conditions.
Pediatricians point out that many children are more vulnerable to cold weather than adults. “Children are not small adults.” Children are more susceptible to hypothermia.
Temperature alone is not sufficient to control decision-making. Wind chill, rain, ice, snow, and other factors must be considered.
Not all students have sufficient layered clothing to withstand extreme cold and other weather factors. Student safety is the most important consideration. Decisions cannot be made with “a broad brush.” We can encourage outdoor recess but ultimate decisions must rest with the building principal at the local school site.
The following are some steps that we can take to make outdoor recess more likely. They are drawn from various sources:
- Advise parents to provide layered clothing including hats and gloves to children during the winter months. Schools may be able to stock a limited supply of supplemental items for students who come unprepared.
- Re-schedule recess for a warmer part of the day if possible.
- Shorten the time spent outside. Mix indoor with outdoor time.
- Differentiate which students are best equipped to handle outdoor recess by age on a given day.
- Closely monitor certain students who may be more susceptible to cold conditions.
The Superintendent will direct Principals to keep a log of the days when outdoor recess is not implemented. We will collect the data and review it this spring to see what patterns emerge.
In the interim it is my strong recommendation that Principal discretion be maintained. We trust our Principals to make many safety decisions regarding students. This is just one of the many safety decisions they make on a regular basis.
School Superintendent Roy Belson