Shorter Recess Upsets Some Middletown Elementary School Parents

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Some elementary school parents in Middletown, who are upset over the amount of time their children have to play at recess, planned a peaceful protest for Wednesday afternoon.

District leaders decided at the beginning of the school year to have recess split into two 10-minute breaks for elementary school children and sent a letter home to parents about it. The director of communications said these smaller recess breaks instead of one 20-minute break are because of COVID-19.

“We’re doing it as a mitigation strategy primarily and also to ensure that because we have to keep kids in cohorts that they’re able to, as a cohort, access the playscape as one,” Jessie LaVorgna, the Middletown School District director of communications, said.

Many of the parents we spoke with did not have a problem with the recess change.

“I'm just really glad that they're back in school. So, if we could keep them in school and safe, I think then it's OK, you know, to take those precautions now, but I know my son, he really likes recess. And even if the time isn't great, I know he has fun so,” said Michelle Enos, who has a son in fifth grade.

But some parents are concerned that 10 minutes is not enough time for their children to get the mental break they need. More than 2,000 people have signed an online petition and on Wednesday afternoon a peaceful protest is planned at the administration building.

“This is the first time I felt really strongly about something for our kids,” said Sarah Commesso, who has two sons in elementary school.

Commesso plans to attend the protest and said the 10-minute block is so short that her two sons often don’t even get a chance to swing on the swings or use another piece of equipment. She said she feels a longer break is necessary for kids.

“They should definitely get that 20-minute block of time, there's no reason that should be taken away from 5-, 6-, 7-year-olds at all. They should be able to have a little break, this is a long day for them. They're doing lots of learning, they're doing a great job,” said Commesso.

The district is soliciting ideas from parents and they can weigh in through a crowdsourcing campaign called Let’s Play, according to LaVorgna.

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