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Sixth-graders regaining recess at AA Kingston Middle School

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POTSDAM - When the second half of the school year starts at AA Kingston Middle School, sixth-grade students will once again have recess.

Superintendent Patrick H. Brady said research has shown that increased physical activity leads to higher performance in the classroom.

“It stimulates their brain and leads to higher achievement,” he said, adding the idea of extending recess through the eighth grade has been discussed.

Some ideas discussed for winter recess include sledding, skiing, snowshoeing, and maybe even creating an outdoor rink at the school.

The increased recess will come as part of a study titled “Recess For Success” conducted by SUNY Potsdam.

Board of Education member Frederick C. Stone Jr. said he wanted to make sure that student privacy would be protected, and middle school Principal Mark Bennett said that it would, noting those involved in the study would be speaking with teachers, rather than students.

“It’s mostly anecdotal,” Mr. Bennett said.

Traditionally Mr. Bennett said sixth-grade students have about four months of recess each year, going outside for recess during the spring and fall months before and after the weather turns. During the winter months, he said the period is used as a flex period, where students, if needed can get extra help with their work or work on school assignments.

Mr. Bennett said given that sixth -graders already had some recess during the year, putting it into the schedule for them was not difficult.

“We’ll build that into the schedule for next year,” Mr. Bennett said. “Every other day they’ll be outside. It will be opposite P.E., so they’ll get 40 minutes of play every day.”

Implementing recess though for seventh and eighth-grade students will not be as easy.

“That may not be possible,” Mr. Bennett said, explaining that some students in those grades have no free periods.

“It goes from one extreme to the other,” he said. “A student who chooses not the be involved may end up with two study halls.”

Mr. Bennett then compared that schedule to that of a student who may need AIS services and also participates in music programs. That student, he said, would not have any free period.

Board President Christopher C. Cowen said if recess was something the school was serious about, they could consider making it a requirement.

Mr. Bennett said that was a possibility, but he noted that for some students that may mean giving up a class such as band, orchestra or chorus.

“It could be placed as a requirement, but something else would have to move,” he said.

Mr. Bennett said he is currently working on protocols that dictate when students would go outside, as well as outlining appropriate clothing for outside activities.

He also said he was expecting to hear from community members on the issue, especially if it ends up being mandated for seventh- and eighth-grade students.

“We will have parents on both sides of this,” he said, noting some parents will appreciate the outdoors time and physical activity, while others will say, “My child needs this time to get their work done.’”

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