Fairfax staff response to proposal for more physical eduation and recess

The Fairfax County Public Schools’ staff response to the Student Health Advisory Committee’s 2007 annual report was issued November 7, 2007. The portion of that response relating to physical education and recess is shown here:

November 7, 2007

Student Health Advisory Committee

Staff Response to 2007 Recommendations

Staff is pleased to provide a response to the School Health Advisory Committee (SHAC) annual report, presented to the School Board in June 2007. FCPS staff from the Departments of Finance, Instruction, Facilities and Transportation, and Special Services are participatory members of SHAC.

Physical Education and Recess

FCPS should consider requiring a minimum of two physical education class sessions per week (a minimum of 90 minutes). These classes should include more teaching time.

During revision of the corresponding regulation last school year (2006-2007) there was little support to add wording that would require a minimum of two class sessions per week. Although some schools provide 90 minutes of physical education a week, regulation changes for an additional 30 minutes may require additional staffing. A change like this may also require an extended school day since there is now barely enough time for core instruction. The Standards of Accreditation require 75% of the 990 hours be devoted to core instruction (math, language arts, science and social studies).

FCPS should follow the lead of national organizations in setting a stronger recess policy for elementary schools which requires at least 20 minutes per day (other than short Mondays). The policy should also discourage denial of recess for the purposes of punishment or to make up work.

Recess is no longer considered part of the instructional day; therefore, specifying recess time may reduce core instructional time or require extension of the school day. By setting recess at 20 minutes, it would be necessary to extend the school day, or create a uniform weekly schedule. Last year, the Leadership Team added five minutes to the bell schedule of every school to be in compliance with the 990 hours of instruction annually. When this was done, they factored in a daily recess of 10 minutes. Any more would have required an even longer day. At this point, we are just meeting the Standards of Accreditation – to the minute – in most schools. We do, however, recognize the importance and value of recess time for elementary-aged students and will continue to encourage schools to provide such time.

Several actions can be taken to further increase physical activity within the classroom (outside of PE and recess): 1: Raise awareness of the needs of elementary school students for frequent opportunities for physical activity; 2) Identify successful programs currently used in FCPS elementary schools and communicate the availability and value of these programs to elementary school principals; 3) Encourage principals to ensure that teachers have access to strategies for integrating physical activity into the instructional program and ensure that all teachers are skilled in applying these strategies in the classroom. Health and physical education content specialists will continue to work collaboratively with the Office of Elementary Instruction to provide support, within budget constraints, on this goal.

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