Polk mom petitions to bring back recess in schools

LAKELAND, Fla. (WFLA) - A Polk County mother is on a mission to give kids a break.  She started a petition with a goal of getting daily recess back in the school day.  Just a day in, she's got parents, grandparents and even teachers rooting her on.

Amanda Lipham makes a point getting her five-year-old son Elliott on the playground as much as possible.  It became a priority once she guessed why he seemed so frustrated after school.

"I kept asking did he go outside he said, 'no, we only go on Fridays,'" Lipham said.

In her mind, kindergarten means running around and exerting energy.  She believes letting kids be kids is part of growing up.

"We want to raise them to be social, have leadership skills and just recharge their batteries so they can better learn inside the classroom," Lipham said.

But a few years ago, some Polk schools started phasing out of the traditional 20 minutes a day recess.

"It didn't fit in everybody's schedule," Polk School Board Member Hazel Sellers said.

Sellers said it boiled down to logistics, so, many schools turned to Physical Education three times a week., with an optional recess the other two.

"I couldn't imagine how it ever was on the table to be cut, it's just seems like a no brainer," Lipham said.

Monday Lipham started a petition to bring back the old school way of play in Polk schools.

The 500-plus signatures so far represent parents, grandparents, and teachers.

Their comments are making an impression on Sellers, a former teacher, who says it's the teacher's responsibility to include stimulation in the school day.

"For me, it's an eye-opener that this isn't going on because I would expect every teacher to be planning exciting activities that have the children moving up around," Sellers said.

Amanda also wanted it to catch the attention of State Senator Kelli Stargel. News Channel 8 reached her Tuesday and she said she agrees kids need that time to run around and play, but she believes this is a local issue that should be handled by the district.

Sellers added she wasn't sold on bringing back the traditional 20-minutes-a-day recess, but she said the petition could lead to some extra training for teachers in how to incorporate more activity in their lessons.

News Channel 8 contacted county school officials regarding the matter. In response, school officials said:

The School District has not directed schools to phase out recess. This is not a districtwide measure. Some schools have made reductions in providing daily recess (or what parents often consider free-play) based upon the instructional needs of their students. There are only so many hours in a day, and some administrators have reduced recess in order to provide more instructional time.

However, the District does ensure that all elementary students have a minimum of 150 minutes a week of physical education. This is a state requirement. Some schools have more. In addition, we provide our teachers with professional development in ways to integrate physical activity and exercise in their lessons to keep students active throughout the day. We encourage our teachers to use these instructional strategies that incorporate play as a form of learning.

-Jason Greary, Polk County Public Schools

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