New York City to provide all schools with a designated PE space by 2021

In New York City, Mayor Bill de Blasio, Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito, Assembly Member Cathy Nolan and Schools Chancellor Carmen Fariña recently announced a Universal Physical Education (PE) initiative to provide all schools with a designated PE space by 2021. The initiative, introduced on June 5,  will focus on around 200 schools, out of a total of 1,629, that do not currently have a gymnasium. The first phase will focus on 76 schools that do not have any designated PE space and will cost approximately $385 million over the next four years in Capital funding, including $105.5 million in new Capital funding as part of the recently-announced Adopted Budget for Fiscal Year 2018. As part of the budget agreement, the City will also invest an additional $1.8 million for some of the schools to lease nearby PE space.

Over the next several months, the DOE and the School Construction Authority (SCA) will work with individual schools to explore a variety of options at each school to ensure all students have access to space for PE. These options will include constructing new gymnasiums, renovating schoolyards, converting or enhancing existing rooms into fitness areas, converting auditoriums into “gymatoriums”, or leasing PE space from community-based organizations.

Of the 76 schools across the City that do not currently have any designated PE space, the SCA has already identified 20 that have outdoor space that can accommodate a new gym addition, a standalone gym or a schoolyard renovation. DOE and the SCA are in the process of conducting space assessments at the remaining 56 schools.

California Senate supports later school start times

On May 31, the California Senate passed a bill to prevent all state middle and high schools from starting earlier than 8:30 a.m.  The bill now goes to the Assembly. If approved, the measure would not be implemented until 2020. CBS Sacramento reports that, “Critics, including the California Teachers Association, say local districts, not the state should set their own hours.”

The San Diego Union-Tribune supports the bill, saying that Senate approval of later school times a start for California:

The American Academy of Pediatrics and a long list of sleep experts say starting school days early takes a harsh toll on teens. “The research is clear that adolescents who get enough sleep have a reduced risk of being overweight or suffering depression, are less likely to be involved in automobile accidents, and have better grades, higher standardized test scores and an overall better quality of life,” pediatrician Judith Owens wrote in 2014. “Studies have shown that delaying early school start times is one key factor that can help adolescents get the sleep they need to grow and learn.”

New Mexico law directs schools not to embarrass children when parents have not paid for their lunches

“In what its supporters say is the first such legislation in the country, New Mexico has outlawed shaming children whose parents are behind on school lunch payments,” the New York Times reports.

On Thursday, Gov. Susana Martinez signed the Hunger-Free Students’ Bill of Rights, which directs schools to work with parents to pay their debts or sign up for federal meal assistance and puts an end to practices meant to embarrass children. It applies to public, private and religious schools that receive federal subsidies for students’ breakfasts and lunches.

The law’s passage is a victory for anti-hunger activists, who have long been critical of lunch-shaming practices that single out children with insufficient funds on their electronic swipe cards or who lack the necessary cash. These practices can include making the child wear a wrist band or requiring the child to perform chores in exchange for a meal.

In some cases, cafeteria workers have been ordered to throw away the hot lunches of children who owed money, giving them alternatives like sandwiches, milk and fruit.

This issue was also covered on the Today Show: ‘School lunch shaming’ is now against the law in New Mexico.

The search for usable advice from nutrition science

Two new books on nutrition, The Secret Life of Fat, by Sylvia Tara, and The Case Against Sugar, by Gary Taubes are reviewed in a recent New Yorker:  Is Fat Killing You, or Is Sugar?  “Both present a range of cutting-edge dietary research, both say that fat is unfairly maligned, and both inadvertently end up revealing that the science behind their claims is complex and its findings hard to translate into usable advice,” Jerome Groopman says.

Tara’s book provides useful information on the biology of fat. White fat stores energy. Brown fat burns energy for body heat. Groopman reports:

A third type, beige fat, was identified some five years ago; during exercise, it receives messages from our muscles to morph into brown fat. Moreover, fat should not be characterized simply as inert blubber. It is the vehicles by which our cells receive certain essential nutrients, like Vitamins A, D,. E., and K. The myelin sheaths around our nerves are eighty per cent lipids, “which means fat is actually required to think,” Tara writes. Studies by Jeffrey Friedman, at the Rockefeller University, have shown that the hormone leptin travels from fat cells to the hypothalamus, a part of the brain which is involved in regulating appetite. ‘Friedman’s discovery redefined fat,” Tara writes. “It was a verifiable endocrine organ with wide influence to our bodies. Through leptin, fat could talk. It could tell the brain to stop eating.”

However, Groopman concludes that Tara’s speculation that viruses may cause obesity relies on research that is obscure and unconvincing.

In The Case Against Sugar, Gary Taubes argues that dietary sugar is the cause of diabetes, heart disease, cancer, Alzheimer’s, and other illnesses. Groopman says:

Ultimately, Taubes’s indictment of sugar as the leading culprit in virtually all modern Western maladies doesn’t provide enough evidence for us to convict. That doesn’t mean sugar is without dangers: it certainly plays a role in the development of obesity, to say nothing of dental cavities. But these are lesser charges, and they make for a less dramatic headline.

Maryland school calendars updated

The Washington Post reports on the school calendar changes in Montgomery County and Prince George’s County:

Montgomery County school officials reset the final day of classes for next school year and shortened two teacher workdays as part of a new plan to meet Gov. Larry Hogan’s order that Maryland schools extend their summer recess through Labor Day.

The county’s school board voted unanimously this week to revise the system’s 2017-2018 academic calendar so that classes, which will start Sept. 5, will end June 12 unless severe weather forces school closings during the year.

“Chris Lloyd, president of the county teachers’ union, estimated that educators will lose about eight hours of grading and planning time during the instructional year,” the Post reported.

Prince George’s County officials announced their plans for next year on Tuesday: School will start Sept. 6 and end June 13. But makeup days for snow and other inclement weather could potentially extend the school year to June 14 or 15, shift the Presidents’ Day holiday on Feb. 19 to a school day or, as a last resort, shorten spring break by as much as two days.

Parents ask for more time for recess and physical education

Recess supporters pack school board meeting. The Prince William Times reports that about 50 parents and their children demonstrated their support of more time for recess and physical education at a Prince William County School Board meeting held January 18.

Block scheduling proposal is controversial in Arlington school

Jay Matthews reports that parents are questioning a proposed change to block scheduling at Williamsburg Middle School in Arlington.

I began writing about block scheduling 20 years ago, when the idea was quickly adopted by most Washington-area high schools. Policymakers felt that teachers could be more thoughtful and creative in much longer periods. Research since has shown no significant differences in achievement rates between students using traditional and block schedules. I asked Arlington officials for studies that support the reform but got none.

Middle schools have been less eager than high schools to adopt block schedules. They are still dealing with basics, where repetition has value. Williamsburg is a great school that might make it work, but not without additional discussion and clarity about the level of support.

 

Poll shows split on school start times in Utah

Utahns split on later school start times. The Salt Lake Tribune reports that a poll of 655 registered voters in Utah showed “41 percent agreed that schools should start later, while 49 percent disagreed, and 10 percent said they did not know.”

CDC and SHAPE publish guidelines on recess

What are the best policies for recess in grades K-12? This question was recently answered by two new publications from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and SHAPE America—Society of Healthy and Physical Educators. Strategies for Recess in Schools and Recess Planning in Schools: A Guide to Putting Strategies for Recess Into Practice, can be downloaded free of charge at shapeamerica.org/recess.

Here are some of the suggestions:

➤Prohibiting the replacement of physical education with recess or using recess to meet time requirements for physical education policies.
➤Providing schools and students with adequate spaces, facilities, equipment, and supplies for recess.
➤Ensuring that spaces and facilities for recess meet or exceed recommended safety standards.
➤Prohibiting the exclusion of students from recess for disciplinary reasons or academic performance in the classroom.
➤Prohibiting the use of physical activity during recess as punishment.
➤Providing recess before lunch.
➤Providing staff members who lead or supervise recess with ongoing professional development.

“This is a milestone in our quest to increase children’s physical activity levels. Daily recess, monitored by well-trained staff or volunteers, can optimize a child’s social, emotional, physical, and cognitive development,” says SHAPE America Chief Executive Officer E. Paul Roetert, Ph.D. “Recess contributes to the recommended 60 minutes of daily physical activity for students and helps them apply the knowledge and skills they learn in an effective health and physical education program. In addition, recess supports 50 Million Strong, SHAPE America’s commitment to empower all kids to lead active and healthy lives.”

Strategies for Recess in Schools defines recess and identifies 19 evidence-based strategies schools can implement that increase student physical activity and academic achievement. Although most of the evidence and expert opinion for these strategies came from elementary schools, many of the strategies are also applicable to secondary schools. The intent is for school staff or groups working with schools to identify what is currently happening or not happening with recess in their school, and then use this information to develop a recess plan that serves all students.

Recess Planning in Schools: A Guide to Putting Strategies for Recess Into Practice complements the strategies document by guiding schools through the process of developing a written recess plan that incorporates the identified strategies. In addition, CDC and SHAPE America developed a customizable Recess Planning Template, which enables schools to record details of how they will organize and implement recess at school.

Garrett County schools to start before Labor Day

“The Maryland State Board of Educated recently approved a waiver request that will allow schools in Garret County to start before Labor Day for the 2017-18 year,”  WCBC reports. “The county was eligible to request a waiver because it had closed 10 days per year during two of the last five years due to severe weather conditions.”