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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.”

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  • John Battaglia

    Parents will petition recess being reduced, but they aren’t petitioning the liberal agenda 90% of the teachers in the school/ school system indoctrinate the kids with.

  • Faith Gydus

    Parents..Please look at the projected budget on Mohegan School’s website. We will be losing 2 teachers next year! We still do not have a full time guidance counselor, psycologist, or a library media specialist. You should be taking a stand to get FULL funding for our school!! We are different then Long Hill and Elizabeth Shelton. They have full time media specialist and counselors next year. I do not understand why these important matters are not being addressed by parents. Maybe if we had the appropriate staffing we could have staggered lunches and additional recess. We as parents should be supporting our principal and the changes she has made because she has done what is BEST for our kids and has put our kids LEARNING first. After all isn’t that what school is about.

  • Aimee

    School is all about learning. We are not looking to take away from any education our children are getting. The biggest issue here is why are we the only school to have this change? Mohegan is the ONLY elementary school in the district that has had this reduction in recess. If a change like this is going to happen it should be across the board. Booth hill does not have the full time staff and is able to have staggered lunch waves and full recess 5 times per week. If they can successfully do this then why can’t Mohegan? Full funding would be great but doesn’t seem to ever happen. Perhaps certain people should not receive bonuses and raises and support fully funding our children’s education.

    This is not an issue of funding, our children need that mental break in the day to unwind from instruction, this allows them the chance to learn to socialize, problem solve, and have a freedom of choice. Much like adults need a mental break during the day, so do our children. This is also about the fact that this has not affected any other school.

  • Faith Gydus

    Not every school will be the same. They never have been. ESS has more support staff. BH has less classes. Even if they had the same amount, the heart of the matter is Mrs Hamilton thinking outside of the box to improve student learning. Her goal, which she clearly explained to me, was to stagger scheduling of grade level literacy blocks/reading time so support staff could best work with students needing “more”. Since she came to Mohegan, the scores have greatly improved. It’s because of her changes so much progress has been made.
    Instead of undermining our principal’s authority, you should be encouraging her to continue thinking outside the box.
    Encourage your children to adapt to these MINOR changes and respect authority-educators who know what works and what doesn’t and what is best for children.
    Don’t you think if the teachers felt the students were unhappy, they’d share this with our principal?

  • Jennifer Hunter

    I am writing this as a parent because first and foremost that is what I am. I just received my daughters direct reading assessment and her level has doubled from the beginning of the school year. Is this because of the changes that were made to the schedule? Absolutely! I think the changes that Mrs. Hamilton has made to Mohegan are positive ones. I send her to school to get an education and that is what she is receiving at Mohegan. Again, this is my opinion as a parent.

  • Peggy

    The reduction of recess or the reinstating the 5 day recess will not effect any of the children’s main subjects. The reducation allowed the students to have double music and art time. So in my opinion the issue here should not be on whether recess is more important than learning. There was just as much learning going on last year and years past just not double music and art time. The staggered lunch schedule did not start this year, Ms. Williams made that change a few years ago. Yes people are right in saying that not all of the elementary schools are the same, some have larger class sizes, some have larger amounts of special needs students which mandates more support staff. The word equality has been used through out our schools for many of years now and probably even more these days. Why is Mohegan the only school with reduced recess?

    5 benefits to recess
    1. Play breaks are a necessary part of life. For adults AND kids. You wouldn’t work a full day without giving your brain a rest-neither should your kids.
    2. Classroom performance improves after recess. According to LiveScience, children perform better in the classroom if they’ve had an opportunity to “blow off a little steam” on the playground..
    3. Recess fosters social development. When playing at recess, kids learn so much more than just the rules of the game-they learn vital social skills that stick with them for life
    4. Play is a great solider in the fight against childhood obesity. Having a daily opportunity for physical activity helps fight weight gain and also teaches kids healthy habits from a young age.
    5. Play is good for brain development. play is the way the brain learns best!
    Adding instructional time is important, I completely agree, but doing so at the expense of recess isn’t going to improve test scores. Kids need adequate recess for a lot of reasons.
    What I’ve noticed during recess duty every day is that recess time is not simply about “playing.” It’s about sociology — the study of our society’s youngest members at the monkey-bar level.
    There, without pesky, know-it-all adults getting in the way, they learn how to act, react and interact with one another. There, they get to further develop one of their most prized attributes, their imagination. Remember having one?
    Those few minutes may be a “recess” from classroom learning, but it’s certainly no recess from their evolution into adolescence and eventual adulthood They need the opportunity to do it on their own.
    Do they fall down? Yes. Do they make mistakes? Yes. Do bullies emerge? Sadly, yes. But these young children also are learning who they are, what they stand for and how to negotiate for what they want whether they realize it or not. . 15 minutes a day, if that, especially when the weather gets cold, is simply not enough time to do this.
    In the big picture, I understand that it’s merely 10 minutes of daily play and adding in the two days that have been taken away we’re talking about here. But in the bigger picture it’s about our youth, their overall well-being and the future of our most promising resource. Imagine that.
    Kids don’t have to think very hard about why they need to play. They just need the time and space to do it.
    I found a poem written by a fourth grader to remind us of the important life lessons that our playgrounds have to offer.
    Monkey Bars
    You’ve taught me a lot of good lessons
    You’ve taught me to be braver than I am
    To swing out as far as I can
    To keep pushing forward
    To move one step at a time
    To fall into a heap in the dirt
    And then get up and try again
    Monkey Bars, you’ve shown me the stars
    - By Diego, 4th grade

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