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Ask Judy: 1 adult to 100 kids = rowdy recess

Wednesday, 09 January 2013 15:32
The number of adults supervising children at lunchtime or recess varies from school to school. There is lots of supervision at PS 222 in Brooklyn. The number of adults supervising children at lunchtime or recess varies from school to school. There is lots of supervision at PS 222 in Brooklyn. Photo by Pamela Wheaton

Dear Judy,

My 1st grader and her friends were 'play lunch box fighting' when she got hit with a lunch box between the eyes and her glasses broke on her face. When I spoke to the principal about filing an incident report she said the incident didn't warrant one because "accidents happen." She said that there was only one adult supervising 100 kids at recess and that he couldn't possible see what was going on with all the children. What is the required adult to student ratio during recess? I called the DOE and district advocate but no one had answers. I was hoping you would have the answer.

Dear Alison,

I did some research about supervision at recess and was surprised not to find any reference to a required ratio of adults to children outside of the classroom.

The UFT teachers contract spells out the number of students that may be in a classroom under the supervision of a teacher but it does not cover recess rules. It is usually not the classroom teachers who are out on the playground at lunchtime. A UFT staffer told me that each school's safety plan should explain the number of adults required to supervise recess, and that it varies from school to school.  DOE spokesperson Marge Feinberg confirmed this in an email: "The ratio is at principals' discretion, and schools have to specify their own recess and lunchroom supervision in their safety plans. "

Your principal told you it was one adult for 100 kids; a downtown Manhattan parent told me that without parent volunteers to serve as lunchtime-recess monitors, one school aide would be in charge of 80 students.

Have you seen your school's safety plan? It is developed by a committee that includes a parent member. The principal has to file monthly reports about safety committee meetings and the safety plan must be posted where it can be read by all. If all these requirements were followed, parents have given tacit approval of the supervision requirements at recess.

Now, when they find out about the safety plan, will parents be dismayed by the large numbers of children that one aide has to supervise? Will they lobby the school to keep kids inside during recess? Or will they form parent volunteer committees to step in as supplements to the school aide? Is there another solution?

Remember, the Department of Education's Office of Fitness and Health has published a wellness policy that recommends outdoor play: "Daily Recess - In addition to physical education classroom time, DOE encourages principals to provide elementary school students with at least 20 minutes a day of supervised recess, preferably outdoors, during which time staff encourage moderate to vigorous physical activity and provide appropriate space and equipment. DOE policy states that outdoor play is permitted regardless of temperature so long as weather conditions are appropriate."

I encourage you and other parents to pursue a positive remedy for the lack of supervision at recess.

Good luck for a safe and successful school year.

Last modified on Wednesday, 09 January 2013 17:13

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