Possible changes to SCCPSS recess policy receive backlash

SAVANNAH, Ga. (WSAV) - The Savannah-Chatham County School Board is reviewing a policy requirement update to recess time, which has caused a backlash on social media.

The rewrite of the policy essentially leaves it up to teachers and principals to decide how that time is utilized.

News 3 spoke with many parents and teachers who say they are concerned the rewrite takes away the protection of recess.

The policy uses language such as "encourages unstructured break time" rather than “requires students to have that free time to play.” And while some Savannah-Chatham County Public School System (SCCPSS) School Board members are on board, others are on a different page.

"We've taken away some of the restrictions and people who have never attended the wellness committee, at least the meetings I've been at, are pitching a fit cause it's not 100% how they want it,” said Julie Wade with SCCPSS School Board District 1.

SCCPSS is now facing backlash on social media after their proposal to change the recess policy went viral.

"What could be the academic reason to withhold recess from a child, is it because they're testing because they have to learn something, and then where do we draw the line?” asked Chelsey Beck, parent and Voices for Schools Co-Founder.

A line now crossed out in the policy: Eliminate the ability for teachers to take away recess from kids as a form of discipline. They could, however, keep children from “unstructured break time” for academic or safety reasons.

READ: Administrative Regulation EEE-R: Wellness

READ: Policy Idea: Unstructured Break Time

(Proposed changes are in red)

It’s a loophole Beck says is not surprising, but disturbing.

“If unstructured play increases academic performance how much sense does it make to keep a child inside and not let them play to work on academics?" Beck said.

"We have so many restrictions on teachers about what they can and can't do in the classroom,” Wade said. “And I just feel to legislate another restriction is frankly insulting to teachers who we trust to manage their classroom accordingly." 

But School Board President Jolene Byrne said she's concerned about the lack of protection for students. She wrote on Facebook, "There is no longer any requirement that schools have recess - only encouragement."

The new policy would extend the encouraged playtime from 10 to 30 minutes. Still, some parents, teachers and school leaders say they want a guarantee.

The proposal will be reviewed Wednesday at 1:00 p.m. at the Whitney Administrative Complex. The meeting is open to the public.

News 3 will be there and will keep you updated on the decision.

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