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Williamsville schools go for recess in elementary grades

After more than a year of study and preparation, recess is part of the school day in all six elementary schools in the Williamsville Central School District.

Children in kindergarten through fourth grade are spending an uninterrupted 20 minutes each day in an unstructured, non-academic block of time.

“Recess was never to be used as a punishment or as a reward,” Maple East Elementary Principal Cathy Mihalic told School Board members Tuesday night as she explained the parameters of the program. “Every child had a right to recess. It couldn’t be earned or lost.”

Maple West Elementary School Principal Charles Galluzzo said recess is part of the daily schedule.

“You wouldn’t have a kid sit out of math class,” he said. “It’s something that they need to do. It is part of the day. It’s not something we had to do a lot of cajoling with teachers.”

The district had a committee of parents, teachers and administrators look at the research on the benefits of recess, and the committee came up with guidelines on how to run it.

Classes are encouraged to go outside, weather permitting.

Principals will determine each morning if outside recess will be allowed, and that could change during the day.

Galluzzo said when the temperature reaches 80 to 85 degrees, there will be a discussion about whether it is too hot to go outside. The low end of the thermometer is between 25 and 30 degrees, he said.

Classes will go inside in the event of lightning or thunder, and students will not be allowed to go outside until there has been 30 minutes without thunder.

Students also will not be allowed out without proper footwear and clothing, administrators said.

Anna Cieri, assistant superintendent for exceptional education and student services, said the focus is on keeping children safe.

If an injury occurs, the teacher is to stay with the child until other help arrives, she said.

Board Member Michael J. Schmidt said the protocols work very well.

“The second day of mandated recess, my second-grader broke her wrist,” he said. “The school was on top of it, they let us know right away.”

Board members asked that information about recess be placed on the school district’s website.


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