Lunch/Recess Group To Rally Pre-Board Meeting

Seattle parents to protest lack of sufficient lunch and recess time in school
Parent observations will show school district out of compliance with local and state policies
Students in Seattle Public Schools are coming home hungry and with full lunch boxes each day as a result of new cuts by the district to lunch and recess times, Seattle parents have discovered, with children participating in the Free & Reduced Meal program or who have disabilities suffering the most.

Parents and concerned community members from across Seattle will hold a rally at the Seattle Public Schools headquarters in SoDo on Wednesday afternoon at 4:00 pm before presenting their initial findings to the district’s board. They will demand the district take action to restore appropriate lunch and recess times.

WHERE: John Stanford Center, 2445 3rd Avenue South, Seattle, WA 98134 (parents will gather on the lawn at the corner of 3rd and Lander)

WHEN: Wednesday, November 5, 2014, at 4:00 pm

A group of concerned parents at Whittier Elementary School began organizing upon learning that their children's lunch and recess time was cut yet again for this school year. Parents also reported their own children were coming home hungry, with low blood sugar, and often had full lunchboxes due to a lack of time to finish their meals.

After launching a Facebook group, Lunch and Recess Matter, they heard from over 1,000 parents and community members across the region that children at other schools in the district were also being denied enough time to eat and play.

The American Association of Pediatrics recommends children have 20 minutes of seated lunchtime to eat their food. Seattle Public Schools’ lunch policy also requires children be given 20 minutes of seated lunchtime—with more time as needed for standing in line. Research that parents will present on Wednesday will show that many schools are not compliant with the policy.

Also, unlike other large districts such as Tacoma, Seattle Public Schools currently has no recess policy to protect minimum recess times. Research has uncovered that many Seattle schools do not offer enough recess each day to children in kindergarten through 5th grade.

Lunch and Recess Matter Facebook Group:

Facebook event invite for Wednesday’s school board meeting:


Anonymous said…
Thank you for posting this. Somehow, I hadn't heard about this effort...

- Hungry Kids
Deb Escher said…
Thank you for covering this hot topic. If you plan to attend the School Board meeting tomorrow WEAR GREEN to show your support of this issue!

Every year schools are cutting lunch and recess times further and I think the district expects parents to get fatigued at the daunting process of trying to correct this for our children. We can't wait any longer. Our parent-led group's initial research indicate over 50 schools clearly in violation of the SPS district's own minimum lunch policy with • Of the 50+ Seattle Schools that we believe are in violation of the minimum lunch time policy, 30 of these schools report more than 30% of their kids on the Free & Reduced meal program—with several schools at over 80% (F&RL)! In first-hand lunchroom observations, we've seen hot lunch kids getting just 4 - 6 minutes of official lunch time on multiple occasions, which can be especially devastating to kids who rely on school meals for their nutrition. This has really become a human rights issue, and we need to stand up for our kids, who have no union, contract or law to protect them currently!

Our group is also researching growing recess concerns, and have found many schools have cut recess again this year--some giving elementary kids only one 15 minute recess time in a 6+ hour school day. Seattle--unlike most other large school districts--has no recess policy, and the fact that recess DOES COUNT toward their required academic instructional time, makes us wonder why SPS is cutting recess at all. Study after study shows the importance of physical movement and academic achievement, not to mention the physical, social and emotional benefits! Kids need to be allowed time to eat--and play.

Please join our efforts by spreading the word or WEAR GREEN and join us at the Seattle School board meeting tomorrow! We'll present some initial research findings and propose a solution to the board during the 5pm Public Testimony time!

Because #LunchMatters and #RecessMatters!
Deb Escher
I think parental fatigue is on overload with SPS. I know it was for my family, and one of the main reasons we scraped together to resources to transfer to private school. I was absolutely fed up with fighting the system and seeing my daughter's good school get undermined by bad decisions from the central office—and that was 8 years ago!

I can't imagine being a parent of a child in SPS now—very little good news.
Andrea, I hear you.

If I ran for School Board, it would be on a "back to basics" campaign. Let's basics like lunch, recess, etc. before we worry about special initiatives.

This seems to be overlooked by many in senior leadership.
Anonymous said…

We have 3 students and recently moved to and bought a house in Seattle. This is the worst mistake we have made as a family. We will sell in 3 years and get out of town ASAP. There's a basic lack of logic in everything SPS does, worst of all is the consistent lies SPS tells us about why they make the decisions they do. The central administration is ridiculous is size, cost and lack of accountability. I just don't see a sense of urgency at SPS driving SPS to make the changes needed across the district. I can't believe Seattle schools are his disorganized. What an enigma!

functional leprosy
Lynn said…
How Finland Keeps Kids Focused Through Free Play

And a little off-topic: Finland's A+ Schools

Five hours of school a day - and fifteen minutes of every hour is recess.

“In Finland we orientate more towards learning and working than towards marking and evaluating,”

My kindergartener had 60 minutes of recess every day in a private school. I remember being shocked to learn that one of her friends in Seattle Public Schools had only 15 minutes. (They have changed schools and this was one reason.)
Anonymous said…
Why not rally at the Gates Foundation, they control the message.
Anti-Gates Parent
Anonymous said…
Agreed, Whittier parents let's meet at the Gates foundation and let them hear our voices. "Stop messing with our schools!"
Whittier Parent
Anonymous said…
Lunch and recess do not produce code writers. Schools must demonstrate growth.
Whittier Parent Too
Anonymous said…
Parental fatigue is because of the Gates Foundation for their destruction of local school and communities.
SPS Parent
Jet City mom said…
Imo, this is a big enough issue that if I currently had kids in SPS, we would move or go private/homeschool.

And any of the above would be a hardship, but not as much as taking away my child's childhood.
Anonymous said…
Was it on this blog that there was a quote from someone at SPS that said she hadn't heard that outdoor physical activity was good for academic improvements?
Anonymous said…
I wonder if part of the problem is that teachers are contracted to have thirty minute lunches? I agree that thirty minutes is not enough time for anyone to have a decent lunch. However, children who are slow eaters anyway get slower in large lunchrooms. They play.

I'm a teacher who sees it every day. I've occasionally had children eat in the classroom and they are very slow and that's when it is just me and the child. Not sure what's to be done about that.

There are schools who have strong support and parents/staff who circulate and keep lunchrooms calm and kids eating.

Also, I've noticed that the more curriculum that comes down simply can't get done well in the short school days in Seattle. Some bloggers here do not want longer days. But something's gotta give. Many, many cities equal to Seattle have longer school days. They don't have to be boring or fatiguing. A longer school day means less rush and more enrichment.

I think parents who don't want to see longer school days are in the minority. A longer day will mean happier teachers (even if they don't think so now) and happier kids. I've polled a few teachers - new ones - and they agree a longer day would give everyone a rest. It is the rush that burns us all out.

Yes, I do think a longer lunch is the right thing to do. Along with more lunch monitoring and a longer day.


Lynn said…
I think the idea of more frequent recesses is that children are more easily able to pay attention when they are in the classroom. They could learn as much in less time - and be happier and healthier too.
If children had 15 minute recesses every hour, their teachers could take turns supervising outside and having a break themselves. I think teachers would appreciate that. If the school day was also shorter for students, teachers would have time within their work hours to plan, collaborate and actually complete their work.
In my ideal world, at the end of that five hour day, students would be free to go home. There could also be PTSA or community-organized afternoon activities - fun, enriching activities that aren't included in the school day.
Anonymous said…
Lynn, I just read one of your links and I do like the frequent break idea. I am trying to locate information on curriculum because I think we overdo it here. We try to squeeze way too much.

Teachers have so much on our plates that we don't take advantage of the time we do have now. We are working through lunches and we resent like nobody's business having to do recess duty. I'm in a school with no support. Yes, I have higher-achieving kids but I'm still working minute-to-minute without relief. Most of us in my school are doing the same.

I don't think people realize how different schools handle budgets. If you are at-risk, you get a lot of money. And you need it. But for those of us in stronger schools, we have no relief. Trust me.

Teaching four or five subjects in forty-five minutes is excellent. But that requires a high degree of preparation and pacing which comes at the cost of time prepping for each lesson.

Perhaps I'm just not as organized as others. I don't know. I do know that the teachers who have given-up and started job sharing are working far more than one would expect for a half-time position. In other words,the District is getting a teacher-and-a-half for each two .5 teachers. It is the only way some of us can have a life and teach.

I'm also curious about teacher meetings and outside expectations that impinge further on teacher time in Finland. Also, I'm curious about the testing mandates.

There's no let up on the demands on teachers these days. And, those demands affect our students as well. Tired teachers. Under-prepared teachers. Rushing through curricula. And constant before-school-and-after-school meetings whether for consultations over evaluations, professional growth goals, math meetings, teacher collaborations, BLT meetings, etc. Teacher time is as intense before and after school as it is during school hours.

If we could have longer time to really do the work of prepping and collaborating, I'd be all for it. But you can't do it in fifteen-minute spurts. That is not the way most of our brains work. Does yours work at maximum efficiency in fifteen-minute spurts?

Not trying to disagree. I would love to work towards a true Finnish model. I can't see American bureaucracy giving it much of a chance however.

Hope I haven't made a fool of myself here. I'm always slow to reread what I write. It's like doing homework . . . so I usually a chance and post!

Lynn said…
Finnish teachers don't use those breaks to work - they're actual breaks. Students there attend school from 8 to 1 or 9 to 2. With that schedule meetings, planning and correcting could happen in the remaining 2 1/2 hours of the contractual work day.

I know it's not going to happen here - but we're allowed to dream. It's cheaper than moving to Finland!
Greeny said…
Finland and the Scandinavian schools are a great model for student achievement success. But it is a whole system, and about 180* different from what we are currently doing in the US. Notably, including the deliberate absence of standardized testing. And thus a freedom from the increasing testing pressure being forced on our teachers & kids. Is this pressure leading to flawed decisions, perhaps eg. the Beacon Hill test..message, and the robbing of time from recess and lunch? Hoping "more class time = better test results" will hold true for the next bit of t=n that can be found may be a risk schools feel forced to take, when they are powerless to make the "time pie" bigger (eg longer school day, school days into summer, etc.) without additional funding. Perhaps rallying for MCCleary "basic education" level funding (that our children are STILL being denied by our legislature), WITH the Board and School members on Olympia steps, or a really BIG, inclusive calling campaign - would be a productive next step?
Greeny said…
@Lynn and @ wishing -
FYI (and, a little hope :)

and, a point against my earlier post - it's not always about the money. US spends, by far, the most in the world per student.
USC didn't put clear years on their data sources, but WA state has roughly averaged $6.5K/pupil over the past 5 years, below $7.7K/pupil US average shown.
dw said…
Melissa said: If I ran for School Board, it would be on a "back to basics" campaign.

I understand very clearly that you didn't say you're running, but I got a little warm spot inside me when I read this nonetheless. When you write something like this it makes some of us feel like there's at least a small chance you'll consider running next year -- or at least that you haven't ruled it out.

The question of what is the most effective way for someone like you to advocate for public schools in Seattle is clearly important. It would be very difficult, if not impossible, to run a blog like this as a seated board member. Or at least not at the level and manner that you can now. It would be difficult to take a stand on ballot issues. That alone is enough to give pause to the thought of running.

That said, the balance of the board is delicate right now, and could easily tip toward a majority of charter-supporting/more-testing/data-mining/TFA-friendly directors with merely one seat changed. That is a truly scary thought, and particularly at this time, with the push for Mayoral control and other nearly-irreversible changes, I do hope you consider putting your hat in the ring next election.

There are few people in Seattle that have the depth and breadth of understanding SPS that you have today. That includes those who work at the JSCEE. Having someone else on the board who is not in bed with the Alliance and other big-money interests, but also understands the budgets, history, programs, etc., would be stellar. Someone who is not afraid to ruffle feathers if they need to be ruffled, but has the ability to work with people without pissing them off (sorry Charlie, that's your political weakness, as I'm pretty sure you already know).

There are some huge battles coming soon, and due to the nature and magnitude of these battles, there may not be a "next time" if the other team gets a majority. Blogs can be kept on low-burner, other people can step up to help with that and other types of advocacy that you do now. But if the city takes over our schools, that's really, really hard to undo.

Of course this is a hugely personal decision, and many factors come into play, but I would wholeheartedly support you and work hard on your behalf if you decide that this is the right time to run for a board seat. I suspect many others would as well.
Elsa said…
This has been an ongoing problem for years as many don't realize that every meal served by the District brings in (not only) federal and state reimbursements (over 3 dollars when I last checked) but that those reimbursements also add to the "levy capacity" of the District. This means that school districts with thriving programs ACTUALLY MAKE MONEY when all things are considered.

In Seattle, the school meal program is (wait for it....) top heavy with administration and no one can tell building administrators what to do.

Thus, no one mentions that local levy funds and reimbursements ALL help the whole District buy books, teachers, staff, junkets for administrators, etc.

Realization of these fiscal matters is largely what drove the policy in the first place but in a 'culture of lawlessness' no one pays any attention.

Thanks for everything you are doing on this issue.
Anonymous said…
@DW That is an excellent thought !
Did they really try to exclude Melissa from a community form ?
Someone needs some shoe lifts and it's not Melissa.

Greeny, that's a good idea.

Every - single - day of the legislative session, every single legislator gets 10+ calls/e-mails - what did you do on McCleary today? What did you agree to compromise on for McCleary?

Keep it up, day in and day out. Keep a running tally here (or someplace) of answers, progress, etc.

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