Several parents of PMS students attended Tuesday's board of education meeting to voice their concerns over the lack of recess offered to fourth- through eighth-graders at Pocomoke Middle. They called recess a "fundamental need" for the students.
"Recess is something ancient," parent Douglas Voss said. "It's timeless."
Voss said recess, which had been offered on a limited basis in recent years, was eliminated at the school this year in an effort to further increase test scores and academic performance. If it were implemented in a balanced way, he contended, a recess of just 30 minutes a day could be beneficial.
"A cognitive break in the middle of the day does improve academic performance," he told the school board.
Voss said the brain needed time to relax so that students could continue to engage cognitively during the latter half of the school day. He added that schools with recess had fewer discipline problems.
Another parent, Michael Hooks, compared the student dismissal at Pocomoke Middle in the afternoon to a scene in the movie "Grease," with kids sprinting out of the building. He said he and his wife had trouble getting their fourth-grader to do his homework after school because he was so wound up -- a problem they did not have with him last year, when he enjoyed recess at the elementary school.
"They don't have that outlet," he said.
Theophilus Moses said that with childhood obesity rates high, it was crucial that the middle schoolers get some time outside. "They are our future," he said. "We owe it to them."
Although school board members said they needed more time and information before they could make a decision on the matter, they did pass a motion to have Superintendent of Schools Jon Andes review the county's policies and procedures regarding recess and to make a recommendation on the subject to the board. They expect to address the issue by budget work session scheduled for Dec. 7.
"We're really going to take a hard look at this," board member Doug Dryden said, thanking the parents for their professional presentation. "This is the way the process is supposed to work."
PMS principal Caroline Bloxom stressed that the school worked in partnership with its parents in a statement that did not commit the school to any course of action on recess.
"We are partners with our parents," she said in a statement, "and we seek their involvement and feedback. In fact, being receptive to all opinions is crucial to school improvement."