Recess and Lunch Time Issues Update

You may recall the district's press release on this subject said this:

Lunch/Recess Times
-          We understand the concerns of parents regarding lunch and recess times. This is an issue we are taking seriously and are working to address.
-          A Wellness task force has begun looking into the concerns and issues surrounding lunch times throughout the district. The purpose of this 18-month long task force is to examine nutrition, physical education and physical activity.
-          The task force will provide recommendations to the superintendent at the end of this time period.
-          Creating daily school schedules has become increasingly complex, due to multiple factors and requirements. This includes:
o   State Board of Instruction required educational hours
o   Recess times
o   Teacher/union contract constraints
o   Building capacity
o   Length of school day
-          Schools leaders have reported having at least 20 minute lunches. One main issue being reviewed, is the ‘passing time’ on the way to and from lunch/recess.

I was puzzled because it sounded like there would be a new taskforce and yet Pegi McEvoy, at the last Board meeting, had referenced other taskforces on this issue to the Board.  I asked her for clarification (and for her statement to the Board) and she kindly sent it along.

There is one overall committee with 2 subcommittees (each one is “referred to as a Task Force.” ) Sorry if there was confusion. 

Ms. McEvoy's statement to the Board:

Thank you, Dr. Nyland. We appreciate the opportunity to share what all is going on with Child Nutrition Services. 

As educators, we know that students perform best academically when well-nourished. It is essential that they consume nutritious meals to assist in meeting their physical, social, and emotional needs. 

Our Child Nutrition Services provides one of the most celebrated food service programs in the country. They have brought in local Chefs to help bring more diverse and healthy menus to our students based upon the new federal nutrition standards and recently held a food fair right her at JSCEE to gather student input into menu decisions. 

We also have some challenges related to ensuring that all our students have the opportunity to eat our meals and for elementary students have adequate recess times. Creating daily school schedules has become increasingly complex, due to multiple factors and requirements. This includes: 

o State Board of Education required instructional hours & increasing graduation requirements
o Teacher/union contract constraints
o Increasing numbers of students and our building and lunchroom capacities
o Length of school day for students/staff 

To assist with these issues, the district’s School Health Action Committee has formed two Task Forces. One Task Force focuses on nutrition and the other on physical activity. As part of each task force’s work they will be looking at meal service and recess. The Nutrition Task Force report is due out in February 2015. The Physical Activity Task Force report is anticipated the summer of 2015. 

(Editor's note - per my remarks above, there is one taskforce with two sub-committees.  I believe the name of the taskforce is Physical Activity Taskforce.)

Additionally, the Bell Times Analysis Task Force will be making recommendations regarding arrival times for both elementary and secondary schools by August-September 2015. Their recommendations may also have an impact on this work. 

In the meantime, we will continue to review the information provided by parents/community and staff and work with our schools to successfully manage the competing interests of instructional time, meal time and recess. 

We hear parent and educators concerns. The structure of the school day is an important ingredient to students’ readiness to learn, and we want this done in the right way.


Anonymous said…
Dr. Nyland will likely be gone by the time some of these task forces make their recommendations, and they will be only "recommendations" without strong staff and board support. More to the point, how many task force recommendations *ever* been implemented by the district? I'm charitably suggesting that the track record is less than 50%. If so, there is little reason to believe that any resulting recommendations will be implemented. And we will have wasted multiple months of study without the hope of a solution. I don't think any parent or community member should lend their time to such a sham.

The District (not the schools) often reminds me of a famous line from a famous speech:

"There's a time when the operation of the machine becomes so odious — makes you so sick at heart — that you can't take part. You can't even passively take part. And you've got to put your bodies upon the gears and upon the wheels, upon the levers, upon all the apparatus, and you've got to make it stop. "

- Not Amused
Anonymous said…
"School leader have reported 20 minute lunches?" Really? So, is he saying all the kids & parents reporting 15 minute lunches are lying, or is he just being selective about which school leaders he is referencing? Way to blow everyone off. Adding in "passing time" to get to 20 minutes is not acceptable. Usually the time spent on something is measured from when arrives there, not from when one departs to get there. That's like saying the kids don't actually need to be in their classrooms when the bell rings, so long as they are somewhere in the building. Maybe my boss should start paying me as soon as I get on the bus in the morning.

Mom of 4
StringCheese said…
Time should not officially start until the moment the last child exits the school lunch line and not end for a full 20 minutes thereafter. Pass time and line time are not to be counted.

School admins just need to figure this out. It may mean extra hot food lines need to be opened, it may mean more complicated staggered lunch times... I don't care. Just get it done.

SPS currently has one of the shortest school days in the country. Wasn't the contraction of the school day that was enacted years ago supposed to be a temporary budget measure? The fact is that we need 7 hour school days (like most of the country) which affords schools time for things like lunch, recess, and the arts.
We either need a longer day or the realization that kids are kids, not cogs.
Anonymous said…
I read a post on another blog that said elementary teachers are paid to work a 7 hour, 10 minute day -

1/2 hour before school
1/2 hour after school
6 hours, 10 minutes school day

Of the 6 hours, 10 minutes an hour is used for PCP and their lunch time.

Can anyone confirm this is true?

N by NW
Anonymous said…
"It may mean extra hot lines need to be opened"


Lincoln has ONE key pad for 690 kids in APP - and they can only do 3 lunches (not the awful 4 that are going on at Schmitz Park) b/c the cohoused Licton Springs gets the 4th lunch, I think.

If you're in SPS Admin or the School Board and you read this - please please please make a phone call to someone in nutrition services or facilities and MAKE A SECOND LUNCH KEY PAD happen NEXT WEEK. Just make the call and ORDER someone to deliver one that works. Don't study it. It doesn't need to be studied - heck, send over TWO more key pads so Lincoln can have a milk line (my kid quit buying milk b/c of the lines) and two hot food key pads at the same time. PLEASE. Please. We're begging. The Principal's tried since before school started ... to get a key pad. A freaking key pad so kids can pay for lunch.

I could care less about the fancy chefs and food awards - that's great, but the kids can't actually buy lunch or eat it, so that whole letter from Pegi McAvoy just rings painfully hollow and Orwell-speak to me. My kid just needs to buy milk.

But the district won't even give Lincoln a second key pad for 690 kids - let alone another hot lunch line at all.

So good luck with that opening a second lunch line thing at your schools. I really wish you well, because maybe if your school figures out the system you could share it here.

Signed: Angry w/Bitter
Lynn said…
Procedure H61.01 is a board-adopted procedure. I believe this means it can't be replaced, amended or suspended without a vote by the board.

The procedure says (in part) Meal times should be scheduled so that dining areas have the capacity to seat all students who wish to eat there comfortably. Students should have enough time to relax, eat, and socialize without the distraction of competing activities. Also Meal periods shall be scheduled at appropriate times – schools are strongly encouraged not to schedule lunch before 11:00am or after 1:00pm; schools shall make every effort not to schedule tutoring, pep rallies, club and organization meetings, or other activities during meal times unless students are allowed to eat during such activities. Meal periods shall be long enough for students to eat and socialize – a minimum of 10 minutes are provided to eat breakfast and 20 minutes to eat lunch with additional time as appropriate for standing in line

This board policy is not being met at Garfield High School - where 1,600 students have one 30 minute lunch period during which club meetings are scheduled in various classrooms. There isn't adequate capacity to seat or serve food to the almost 600 students who qualify for free or reduced price meals. If they do choose to eat school lunch, they cannot attend club meetings.

Families at many elementary schools report that their children don't have 20 minutes to eat after going through the lunch line.

How do the Superintendent and board respond when they're informed a school isn't following board policy? If they want to take a year to discuss changing the policy, that's one thing. Until then, enforce it.

According to the state Board of Education, the length of the school day is not affected by time allowed for recess.
Linh-Co said…
@ N by NW

Teachers are required to be at school 30 minutes before and after school. Elementary teachers have 30 minutes PCP (without kids)each day plus lunch and recess. PCP stands for planning, conference and preparation. Most middle and high school teachers are assigned 5 periods.

Most good teachers show up earlier and leave later, but you are correct in your assessment.

apparent said…

Gourmet food trucks!
Anonymous said…
as a high school teacher for a decade, THE reason I don't want my time extended is because those in charge of my time provide valuable advice and useful assistance rarely and randomly. Note that those who are really in charge of my time are not in the building, but are off in that academic - downtown - oly - gate$-tank never-never world of make believe.

The day could be longer - why aren't we hiring useful adults to run after school frisbee band soccer orchestra painting baseball softball ... study clubs?

We could pay for useful adults by firing the adults from never

To note from today's Audit and Finance Ctm meeting, there was an excellent report from the Nutrition department. (I will try to get an electronic copy of their PP.)

They said that one reason many kids don't eat lunch is ...not enough time.

The also said 4 high schools have just one lunch hour (including Garfield). That's nuts because you cannot get that many kids thru a food line and seated to eat. It invites them to leave campus.

It was also stated that the district has no policy on food vending machines so every school makes up their own rules about what they do and don't have in their school.

They also said changing start times might encourage more elementary kids (the bulk of their business) to eat breakfast as the later start times for elementary see many of the kids have already eaten.
mirmac1 said…
I was equally impressed with the competency of the Nutritional Services presentation. For one thing, the manager placed students' health first. That was clear.

I will gladly pass along Angry's comments maybe without the snark. i heard today that some high schools have ONE lunch period - Garfield for one. So that is 1600 kids in one lunch period. There's always someone who has it worse.
Anonymous said…
Nathan Hale has one lunch period. Most kids attend clubs at lunch and eat their lunches there. My kid doesn't buy the lunches at school because she thinks they are gross. She does like the peanut butter sandwiches but those sell out very fast. Sometimes they go off campus to buy food. The coffee shop across the street is usually very busy.

Anonymous said…
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Anonymous said…
Nathan Hale has one lunch period. Most kids attend clubs at lunch and eat their lunches there. My kid doesn't buy the lunches at school because she thinks they are gross. She does like the peanut butter sandwiches but those sell out very fast. Sometimes they go off campus to buy food. The coffee shop across the street is usually very busy.


11/14/14, 7:31 AM
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Lots of evidence that recess first encourages kids to eat more. They've run off their energy and tend to focus on eating. See Montana nutrition services. Don't have the website at my fingertips.

Also, kids start pretty early with before-school daycare and they come to class hungry first thing in the morning. That's a problem as well.

Passing time at my school? Teachers were told to leave a little earlier but then they end up waiting at the lunchroom door for the previous students to leave.

Looking for evidence
Anonymous said…
My kid's lunch at JAMS is 10:50, which is quite early.
StringCheese said…
Angry, my comment regarding the need to open more lines was intended to indicate that the district should pony up the money and resources to make this happen -- more staff manning the lines, more keypads, etc.

What you are experiencing is outrageous and unnecessary. I think eliminating one middle management position at the JSCEE should cover lunch upgrades at all of the schools...
Anonymous said…
Angry w/Bitter,
That is indeed outrageous, yet I have to throw some blame on your principal. Navigating the ridiculous system of SPS is what makes or breaks a principal. There are those who can get sh@$ done and those who can't. Julie Briedenbach would have had a new key pad by the end of the day. Rina G is simply stymied by anyone who says no or throws up a small challenge. This is not the first instance of her being helpless in the face of administrative hurdles. She should get in the car, drive to JSIS and remain there until she has 2 new keypads. It's slightly criminal that she hasn't solved this - it's HER problem.-Old timer
Angry and Bitter, Nutrition Services is with you. That was another issue cited at yesterday's presentation.
n said…
Linh-Co and NbyNW: School schedules are all over the map. Teachers by contract have a thirty minute lunch but some schools have increased that time through imaginative scheduling. Some schools have twenty minutes at the end of the day while others have thirty minutes. I'm at a twenty-minute school and are working 6 hours and 10 minutes while others are working 6 hours. Since the new contract, everyone is working on the clock another 30 minutes to match high school contracted hours.

A good principal can work it. At my own school, schedules have changed over the last several years with various explanations. Teacher contracts do not supercede WA State laws? expectations? for a twenty-minute lunch. Some schools do it 15 min lunch and 15 min recess; it sounds like the schedule should be 20 min lunch and 10 min recess.

PCP is contracted thirty mintes but some schools including mine have increased that time a small amount.

Yes, we need a longer school day if we are going to pay attention to all the "best for kids" lip service I'm reading. At some point, the number of lunches required to serve "comfortably" a large group of kids at a reasonable time during the day starts to self-implode. How do you do it?

n said…
Ah, when I say some teachers are working an extra ten minutes, I'm identifying student contact time. Since we are a school that does provide extra contact time with students, our PCP makes up for a bit (not all) of that missing ten minutes without kids at the end of the day.

Is this important? Perhaps not to people who don't teach but teachers teach minute-by-minute without much let up and losing ten minutes to plan and prep can make a difference. Having the students an extra ten minutes can also make a difference. Who knows?
Anonymous said…
Aren't SPS teachers contracted to work a 7.5 hour school day (see page 81 of the bargaining agreement - That is supposed to include half an hour before school, half an hour after school, plus their half an hour without kids during the school day and half an hour for lunch. That means kids should be having a 6 hour 30 minute school day. Why do some schools only have less than 6 hour 30 minute days? Why can't that missing 20 minutes be used for increased lunch time or recess. Plus recess counts as instructional time according to the state ( In order to fit 1000 hours of instructional time a year into a 180 school day year, schools have to have at least 5 hours 30 minutes of instruction time per day, so the day should be a full 6 hours 30 minutes to accomodate a half hour lunch and two 15 minute recesses. Seems like that math works out. So the schools should not be blaming teacher contracts or instruction time constraints for the too short lunches or lack of recess.


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