It’s a beautiful day. Do you know where your kindergartner is playing?
Unfortunately, too many of them are inside, parents say. And often they're not playing.
Some schools confronted with the mandate to improve test scores have canceled recess altogether. Others just don’t have the outside space or are too overcrowded to allow everyone time on the playground.
"We were watching Toy Story 3 one day and my kindergartener asked me 'Mommy, what's recess?’ It almost broke my heart,” said Lucy Herschel, whose daughter goes to PS 69 in Jackson Heights.
Kindergartners at the well-regarded, but gigantic school, have lunch at 9:50 a.m. due to severe overcrowding. They are sometimes given 5 or 10 minutes after lunch to run around in the auditorium, but are often shuffled back into the classroom, parents say, even though the school has a brand new playground. When parents raised objections, they say they were told that the students needed more time for classroom learning.
Kindergartners at PS 152 in Flatbush have no recess because there’s no outside space where they can play, parents on a school tour were told. The kids begin lunch at 10:40 a.m. and watch a movie instead of going outside.
“When I saw that, I thought, no way is my kid going here,” said a mom zoned for the school whose son will be in kindergarten next year. “They said there was a gym class, but a structured class in a crowded auditorium is not the same as playing and climbing outside.” She asked that her name not be used in case her son cannot get into another school.
State law mandates 120 minutes of physical education for kindergarteners every week – an average of 24 minutes each day. City Education Department officials do not keep track of what schools offer outdoor playtime and said recess was encouraged but not required.
A recent study, done by Jennifer Astuto at New York University, surveyed 142 city kindergarten teachers and found that most spent 30 minutes or less for play time, while 79 percent spent time every day on testing or test prep.
Some parents said they thought that their young kids would have an easier time learning if they were also given an opportunity to play.
"It's just misguided that recess is sacrificed to "instruction time" in the name of raising standards,” said Herschel. "I think any elementary school teacher could tell you how counter-productive that is."
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