School recess cuts draw attention at board meeting

A move made by the Marshalltown Community School District to boost instructional time for students at the expense of recess time was discussed at the school board meeting Monday.

The idea was part of schedule changes for 2013-14 presented in an information item to the board. The district will add time to the start of the day and set recess time at 30 total minutes a day for the elementary schools. In most cases, this will decrease recess time.

The district plans to increase physical education class time to make up for the recess cuts to keep the same level of physical activity in most elementary schools.

Associate Superintendent Susan Pecinovsky said the school district’s elementary buildings currently trail the state average of instructional time by 1,300 minutes a year. This new schedule will bring that discrepancy down to zero with hopes, in the end, to increase student achievement.

“We’re going to need every bit of time we can get to get our children to where they need to be,” Pecinovsky said.

One parent, Leah Stanley, spoke up against the changes as did school board member John Johnson. Johnson said there should have been more input from the community on these changes.

“You need to have more communication with your community,” Johnson said, which got a round of applause by several members in the crowd.

The new schedule will also have 90 minutes of physical education on a six-day cycle. Superintendent Marvin Wade said he takes responsibility for this decision and is fine with this new schedule.

“I’m comfortable as the educational leader of this district with those numbers,” he said of the recess and P.E. times.

Anson Elementary teacher Kristin Poppens also spoke out against the schedule changes, saying children do not get enough physical activity at home.

“We are fighting TV and video games,” Poppens said.

Wade said the schedule is always a work in progress after consulting with the principals who are in touch with their staff members.

“We are trying to do a better job of meeting the needs of our kids,” Wade said.

In other business, lunch prices were increased by 10 cents for the 2013-14 school year in the district in a measure approved by the board.

“This is kind of something we have to do… and it fits in with the federal Healthy Kids Act,” said Lisa Koester, director of human resources with the district.

The board also approved the purchase of two new buses from Hoglund Bus Sales of Marshalltown for $154,426 as part of its regular bus replacement schedule.

The next regular meeting of the school board will be at 5 p.m May 20 at district offices.