CPS releases new guide for schools developing a recess plan 

Parent-Led task-force helps shape plan’s focus on promoting student health and wellness


May 23, 2011


The Chicago Public Schools announced today the release of a new guide to assist elementary schools in developing a School Recess Plan. The guide, written in part by parents and with input from teachers and principals district-wide, provides a step-by-step process that school communities can use to consider and create recess options for their students.


Developed in partnership with parent groups including The Healthy Schools Campaign, and Community Organizing and Family Issues (COFI), the guide is the product of the Recess Task Force which formed in 2009 to identify opportunities for offering recess in more CPS schools. Raise Your Hand is among additional parent groups that have worked with CPS to review recess options and issues of implementation. Recess during the school day offers students the opportunity to participate in physical activity, which encourages students to make lifelong healthy choices and also improves success in the classroom.


The parent-led task-force reviewed recent studies which support the benefits of recess not only for student health, but also for academic success. Numerous studies have shown that recess improves attention span, ensuring that students are ready to learn when they re-enter the classroom. A recent study published in the Journal of Pediatrics found that recess lasting at least 15 minutes helped to improve students' classroom behaviors throughout the day.


"Recess should be considered a vital and healthy part of a complete school day for all of our students," said Terry Mazany, interim CPS chief executive officer. "We hope this plan will provide the blueprint needed to return recess to our elementary schools."


CPS is mindful that a return to the traditional school day that includes recess requires careful planning and collaboration among all stakeholders at the local school level to smoothly implement the schedule change and address unique local issues.  Many schools have already begun that process and are ready to implement a traditional schedule. For those that have not, the 2011-2012 school year will serve as a transitional period for schools that need additional time to collaborate with teachers, parents and local school councils so that they are ready to return recess to the school day during the 2012-13 school year.


Prior to the close of each school year, schools will be required to establish a review committee, consisting of the principal, three LSC parents, one school delegate, and three teachers. In an open meeting, they will be tasked with discussing and voting on whether the school should offer recess to its students. The recess guide includes all the CPS forms, parent letters, and other documents needed to complete this process from start to finish.


Parents and school staff are encouraged to consider a variety of issues including availability of indoor or outdoor space, student safety, student supervision, staffing needs and playground equipment. There is no one-size fits all approach to recess.


Every school takes a different approach to recess but the ultimate goal of including meaningful physical activity remains the same. Poe Classical Elementary School on the South Side of Chicago provides recess in an outdoor play lot where students play tag, basketball and football throughout the year. At Songhai Elementary Learning Institute in Roseland, each classroom has a recess packet that includes chalk for hop-scotch, jump ropes, basketballs and other sports equipment.


Some schools provide recess only during spring and fall, avoiding the harsh winter weather. Other schools offer indoor activities, such as walking clubs or games in the gym, when outdoor facilities are not available.


"The parents, teachers and principals we work with know what a difference recess makes for kids' health and learning. This is especially critical in light of the obesity epidemic our children face. We are excited to see this commitment to bringing recess to more Chicago students," Rochelle Davis, president and CEO of The Healthy Schools Campaign.


The district is committed to providing healthy meals and physical activity within all of its schools. Since 2007, the Office of Sports Administration has trained 250 physical education and classroom teachers to conduct school-wide recess activities. This office provides support for schools implementing recess at all elementary grade levels. Additional support will be provided by the CPS Office of P-12 Management.


"Every school community faces different challenges and has different needs. Our goal is to make the process of creating and implementing a recess plan as easy as possible," said Flavia Hernandez, chief officer of the CPS Office of P-12 Management.


Developing A School Recess Plan  -   English  |   Polish  |   Spanish


About CPS

Chicago Public Schools serves 409,279 students in 675 schools. It is the nation's third-largest school district.


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