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.

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.

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.

D.C. schools don’t provide enough time for physical education

Almost the entire D.C. school district is ignoring its PE requirements. The Washington Post reports that very few schools in the District of Columbia meet the physical education standard required by the D.C. Healthy Schools Act. This act, passed in 2010, requires school to provide 150 minutes per week of physical education for grades K-5 and 225 minutes per week for grades 6-8.

“Most elementary schools offered between 45 and 90 minutes weekly of physical education,” the Post reports.

School administrators argue that the law puts schools in a difficult position. Middle schools facing the 225-minute requirement probably would have to add an additional PE teacher and make complex scheduling decisions that would eat into traditional classes, says Irene Holtzman, the executive director of FOCUS, the principal advocate for charter schools in the District.

Here is the portion of the D.C. Healthy Schools Act that covers physical education: [Read more…]

Fairfax County adds 64 positions for full-day Mondays

In addition to questions about recess, I also asked other questions about the change in the elementary school schedules now that Fairfax County has full-day Mondays. Here are the questions, along with the answers from Brandynn Reaves, public information specialist:

Question:  Would it be correct to state that nine additional schools added FLES [Foreign Languages in Elementary Schools] this September, for a total of 55 schools with FLES?

Answer:  There are 55 schools in Fairfax County Public Schools that have the Foreign Language in the Elementary Schools (FLES) program.  They are listed on the FCPS website at http://www.fcps.edu/is/worldlanguages/fles.shtml.

Question: How many schools added additional instruction by music, art or P.E. specialists?

Answer: Below is a breakdown of added staff position for music, art and physical education:

Subject

FTE [Full-time equivalent] total 2014_15

FTE total 2013_14

PE

478

424.16

Art

265.13

257.57

Music

271.33

272.57


Questions:
 Do you have figures on how many of the additional FTE positions in P.E. and art are added solely due to increased enrollment and how many are added in response to the new full-day Monday schedule? Do you have statistics on the types of additional staff positions that were added in response to the new full-day Monday schedule?

Answer: A total of 63.8 positions were allocated to schools as a result of the implementation of full-day Mondays.  The allocation was primarily made as additional art/music/physical education (pe) teachers, but schools are able to utilize the positions in alternate ways to meet their individual needs (e.g., school-based technology specialist, world language teacher, etc.) assuming they are able to provide sufficient planning time for teachers. 

There were 755.2 art/music/pe teacher positions budgeted in FY 2014 for elementary schools.  The FY 2015 budget includes 741.2 art/music/pe teacher positions (prior to the 63.8 positions allocated as a result of full-day Mondays).  The net reduction of 14.0 positions is the result of budget reductions due to the increase in class size and needs-based staffing reductions offset by growth in these positions due to student enrollment and demographic adjustments.

Question: Do you have statistics on how many schools have 60 minutes per week of P.E., How many have 90 minutes? Are there any schools which now offer more than 90 minutes per week?

Answer: Statistics for how many minutes each school has devoted to physical education and music classes is not centrally maintained.  With the implementation of the full-day Mondays, each elementary school had the flexibility to determine how to best utilize the additional instructional time for students. Elementary school master schedules were reviewed by the regional assistant superintendent’s offices only to ensure the appropriate amount of teacher planning time was provided.

This information, which was provided to me in emails sent October 24 and November 4, was also included in the recent article in the Fairfax VOTER.

Fairfax County does not specify a maximum amount of time for recess

When elementary schedules were being constructed for this school year, a 20-minute minimum time for recess was communicated to principals, according to Brandynn Reaves, FOIA officer/public information specialist for Fairfax County Public Schools. “There are no maximum times for recess being communicated to principals.”

Reaves was responding to questions I emailed about whether there is a maximum amount of time allowed for recess and whether FCPS had given principals and teachers new written directives about recess.

In the email she sent me October 22, Reaves said, “We instituted a new regulation that addresses recess.  Currently, School Board Regulation 3218.3 Section III.A.3.h states:

“h. Ensures physical education teachers provide no fewer than two instructional segments totaling a minimum of 60 minutes of instruction weekly for students in kindergarten through grade six. Two or more instructional segments totaling a minimum of 90 minutes is recommended. The Code of Virginia Section 22.1-253.13:1 requires a plan for physical fitness for all students of at least 150 minutes per week. Plans for 150 minutes of physical fitness must include 60 minutes of physical education and a minimum of 15 minutes of daily recess as required by 8VAC20-131-200. Remaining time needed to meet the Virginia requirements may be provided by additional physical education or recess.

“However, when elementary schedules were being constructed for this school year, a 20 minute minimum was communicated to principals. This was discussed at the School Board meeting June 26, 2014 – Regular Meeting No. 22-  Master Calendar Revision 2014-2015:

The FCPS regulation is not precise when it says that the Code of Virginia requires a plan for physical fitness for all students of at least 150 minutes per week. Chapter 13.2 Standards of quality, includes the following provision

§ 22.1-253.13:1. Standard 1. Instructional programs supporting the Standards of Learning and other educational objectives….

D. Local school boards shall also implement the following:…

15. A program of physical fitness available to all students with a goal of at least 150 minutes per week on average during the regular school year. Such program may include any combination of (i) physical education classes, (ii) extracurricular athletics, or (iii) other programs and physical activities deemed appropriate by the local school board. Each local school board shall incorporate into its local wellness policy a goal for the implementation of such program during the regular school year.”

Even though the state “goal” of 150 minutes of physical fitness is not a strict requirement, I don’t understand why the FCPS regulation only calls for 15 minutes of daily recess. That would amount to 75 minutes per week. For the schools which offer only 60 minutes of P.E., the total amount of physical fitness provided by P.E. and recess would be only 135 minutes.

In answer to my question about whether FCPS specifies a maximum amount of time for recess, Reaves explained,

“There are no maximum times for recess being communicated to principals; again, state requirements only mention ‘a daily recess’.  The Code of Virginia, 8 VAC 20-131-200 states:

“Extracurricular and other school activities, recess.

A. School sponsored extracurricular activities shall be under the direct supervision of the staff and shall contribute to the educational objectives of the school. Extracurricular activities must be organized to avoid interrupting the instructional program. Extracurricular activities shall not be permitted to interfere with the student’s required instructional activities. Extracurricular activities and eligibility requirements shall be established and approved by the superintendent and the school board.

B. Competitive sports of a varsity nature (scheduled league games) shall be prohibited as a part of the elementary school program.

C.  Each elementary school shall provide students with a daily recess during the regular school year as determined appropriate by the school.

I also asked, “If 20 minutes is not a maximum, but schools have discretion on this matter, does FCPS have statistics on the length of recess in the various elementary schools?

Reaves answered, “Data is not collected centrally on the length of recess at each FCPS elementary school. These decisions are left to the individual schools.”

I also asked for a copy of the previous regulation, 3218.2. Section III.A.3.h in the old regulation states:

h. Ensures physical education teachers provide no fewer than two instructional segments totaling a minimum of 60 minutes of instruction weekly for students in kindergarten through grade six. Two or more instructional segments totaling a minimum of 90 minutes is recommended. Section 22.1-253.13:1 of the Code of Virginia recommends that students participate in 150 minutes of physical activity weekly provided by physical education, extra-curricular activities, or other programs and physical activities.”

It’s interesting that the previous regulation referred to the state recommendation regarding 150 minutes of physical activity per week, but didn’t mention whether FCPS might ever attempt to meet this recommendation.

Fairfax VOTER describes schedule and staffing changes in FCPS

The December Fairfax VOTER features an article about the changing schedules in Fairfax County Public Schools (FCPS). This newsletter for the League of Women Voters of the Fairfax Area includes a description of the switch to full-day Mondays for the elementary schools.

On June 26, the Fairfax County School Board voted to stop dismissing elementary school students 2.5 hours early every Monday. This has increased instructional time for students and allowed for 20 minutes of daily recess. In addition, the change will guarantee dedicated planning time for elementary teachers totaling 300 minutes per week.

As of November 2014, a total of 63.8 positions were allocated to schools as a result of the implementation of full-day Mondays. Brandynn Reaves, a public information specialist with the Department of Communications and Community Outreach, provided me and the other authors of this article with the following information:

The allocation was primarily made as additional art/music/physical education (PE) teachers, but schools are able to utilize the positions in alternate ways to meet their individual needs (e.g., school-based technology specialist, world language teacher, etc.) assuming they are able to provide sufficient planning time for teachers.

There were 755.2 art/music/PE teacher positions budgeted in FY 2014 for elementary schools.  The FY 2015 budget includes 741.2 art/music/PE teacher positions (prior to the 63.8 positions allocated as a result of full-day Mondays).  The net reduction of 14.0 positions is the result of budget reductions due to the increase in class size and needs-based staffing reductions offset by growth in these positions due to student enrollment and demographic adjustments

The Voter article also describes the calendar changes this year and the school board’s decision to provide later start times for high schools and secondary schools next fall.

FCPS describes the full-day Monday plan

Here is the press release from Fairfax County Public Schools about the vote last night:

Fairfax County School Board Approves Full-Day Mondays for Elementary Schools Starting in September 2014

The Fairfax County School Board approved a master calendar change that will provide a uniform length elementary school day and eliminate the shortened Monday schedule beginning in September 2014.  This change will increase instructional time for students and will allow for 20 minutes of daily recess.  In addition, the change will guarantee dedicated planning time for elementary teachers totaling 300 minutes per week.
 
“After surveying both parents and teachers, we saw that parents overwhelmingly supported this change—and as soon as possible,” said Ilryong Moon, School Board Chairman. “In addition, elementary teachers have consistently cited in our working conditions survey that they need guaranteed, self-directed time for planning.”
 
The change also solves the challenge of meeting the annual 990 instructional hour requirement in state law, which Fairfax County Public Schools (FCPS) does not meet under the current shortened Monday schedule. Instead, FCPS has met the state requirement of a 180-day calendar, which resulted in sometimes having to add days to the end of the school year to make up missed days due to inclement weather. The new uniform elementary schedule will eliminate making up inclement weather days at the end of the school year if fewer than 13 days are missed.
 
A uniform length elementary day also provides an opportunity for an innovative school year calendar that builds in consistent holidays, such as a full two weeks for winter break, and strategic planning days throughout the year.  In addition, one master calendar will be followed for all elementary, middle, and high schools.
 
The change will add staff to elementary schools such as World Language teachers and other instructional specialists to provide planning time for teachers. There will be no changes in music, art, or physical education, nor changes to Regulation 4422, which limits the number of hours that librarians, and other school-based professionals, can be dedicated to providing for planning time coverage.
 
Superintendent Karen Garza and her staff will convene focus groups of elementary principals, teachers, school staff, and other key stakeholders in July to work out the details of the implementation. Then, each school will communicate their individual schedule changes to parents before school begins on September 2.
 

Details on the new 2014-15 calendar can be found here:  http://www.fcps.edu/about/14-15cal.shtml

Teachers would gain unencumbered planning time with proposed schedule change

We are very fortunate that Steve Greenburg, the president of the Fairfax County Federation of Teachers (FCFT) strongly supports the proposal for full-day Mondays and dedicated teacher planning time. He has sent two messages to members within the last week. Here is the first message: [Read more…]

Elementary teachers and parents to receive survey on full-day Mondays

My FCPS – Employees has posted the following information:

A survey to gauge the support for a proposal to change shortened Mondays to a full school day at all elementary schools will be sent to all elementary teachers and parents this week.

To better maximize instructional time and provide dedicated planning time for elementary teachers, the School Board is considering changing the current shortened Monday schedule to a full-day Monday at all elementary schools. Superintendent Karen K. Garza recognizes that considering making this change for this coming school year is ambitious, but is compelled to consider this possibility due to the benefits to teachers, students, and families.

As part of this proposed change, the school division will develop regulations outlining minimum time guidelines for teacher-directed planning (a minimum of 240 minutes per week) and collaborative team planning (a minimum of 60 minutes per week) within the instructional day. A lack of adequate planning time for elementary teachers has been a continuing prevalent theme in the FCPS working conditions survey results. Additionally, no changes will be made in music, art, or physical education regulations. The length of the teacher workday will remain the same.

The proposed change also adds enough instructional hours so the need to add makeup days to the end of the school year is eliminated, and provides more flexibility to address make up days within the calendar.

For more information, go to the FCPS Full-Day Mondays website at http://www.fcps.edu/news/fulldaymonday.shtml.