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Mineola SD Superintendent Clarifies Recess Rumors

Speculation that because of low test scores, recess on the chopping block?

School lunch recess: a time to play, a time to socialize, a time for vibrancy. Will it all come to an end in the Mineola? Rumors were put to bed last week.

Speculation as to whether school lunch recess would be done away with because of low test scores were squashed by district Superintendent Dr. Michael Nagler. Rather, a shortening of recess could be implemented, but nothing is set in stone at this time.

Nagler hinted that shortening recess is circuitously related to the low test scores. Furthermore, since there’s a strong interest in courses like Spanish and Art, while the district is required to have a physical education [PE] class, something has to give.

“We’re not eliminating recess,” Nagler said. “That’s a bad word. “We are proposing to shorten it. Recess is in the scheme and all the schedules that we put out. Is it shortened? Yes. Why is it shortened? It’s kind of indirectly related to the [student] achievement but the more programs we try to bring in, like Spanish, that people seem to like, the less time we have the kids in class. Something’s got to give.

“So if we like Spanish, we like Art, we have to have PE and we want recess, all of those things together shorten the time kids have in class. That’s the problem,” Nagler stated.

The issue is not about disregarding the benefit of recess, according to Nagler, but rather can everything be fit in a school day and if it’s possible, how do you structure that day?

“The second piece to that is, kindergarten, first grade, is not the same when we were in those grades,” Nagler said. “The amount of testing that they’re now going to be faced with, we’re tracking their achievements as early as five years old, we can’t ignore that. It’s here, it’s happening now, it’s going to happen more next year, it’s going to happen even more the year after that. I don’t agree with that but I can’t ignore that.”

School district parent Ken Baker called the possible recess elimination a travesty for the children. He stated it’s something a teacher brought up and it startled him.

“I understand boosting test scores, but taking a child’s time to develop with other kids within their school, it’s the only time they really have to do it,” he said. “Unfortunately with the way the world is today, with people working late, there’s not the opportunity to get with kids in their neighborhood and everything like that. It’s one of the things my son looks forward to every single day.”

Trustee William Hornberger suggested making the school day longer, but revealed that has to be negotiated in the Mineola teacher’s contract, which is currently at an impasse.

“I wouldn’t want to truncate times from other subject matters, understanding pre-K-second is not an area where we’re talking about all the different types of subjects or the depth of the subject matter as we get to the later age group but I understand that the way these grades are now are much different than they were before,” Hornberger said.

Nagler said the district is looking for a solution to fit it all in. He stated further that he doesn’t want the situation to end up with cutting one subject to accommodate another.

“I don’t want it to be about ‘you take recess, but you give up Art’ or ‘we can only give you recess if you take away Spanish that we just put in,” Nagler said, “but the more programs we try to put in, the worse it gets to fit in all in a day.”

Half of the students districtwide are not at proficient levels, according to Nagler in almost every grade. He said this issue needs to be addressed.

“That has to be the first thing we deal with,” he said. “Class time, we can’t mess with that. We can’t pull kids out, we have to leave them with their teachers and teachers have to take ownership of the kids. Then if you’re ranking it, what comes next?”

The district is required to have five days (120 minutes of PE) per week. That averages out at 24 minutes per day.

“We’re looking for feedback,” Nagler said. “In the first grade this year, we don’t have recess everyday. This year’s first grades in [Meadow Street and Hampton Street] have limited recess. It’s about three times a week. We did that on purpose to see how it went.”

“Some district don’t even have pre-K; it’s awesome,” another resident said. “But these kids need socializing. They come home and are tired. I just want to say that I think we as parents want to and will provide feedback. This possible removal of recess is a huge district rumor.”

Parent meetings will be held for both pre-K-second schools about the recess topic.