Middle school students in Fairfax County, Virginia, will get a short daily recess period beginning next year.
The school board voted Thursday night to update its student and staff health and wellness policy to allow for a 15-minute recess period every day. The change received unanimous support, with board member Megan McLaughlin not present for the vote.
Under the change, middle schools are tasked with creating a schedule that enables students to choose to participate in daily outdoor recess, weather permitting, or a “supervised, indoor activity.”
The county anticipates the change will allow students time to unwind and help them focus later in the day. Currently, only elementary students receive a designated recess time. However, students at the few elementary schools that offer sixth-grade classes also receive a recess period.
The board has also directed the superintendent to explore the possibility of offering two 15-minute recess periods for sixth graders at Glasgow, Poe and Holmes middle schools.
While the school board didn’t approve the policy until its April 14 meeting, Superintendent Scott Brabrand previously said middle school principals have been planning to implement the change.
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Middle school recess could include outdoor games, board games or reading time, and it is unlikely to look the same at every school.
Brett Fox, a Fairfax County parent and Herndon Middle School PTA president, said her middle school student is planning to use the time to “be outside running around trying to blow off some steam.”
“Adding this recess, this brain break, into the day is just a phenomenal way to help these students adjust,” Fox said. “There’s been so much talk about how to support the kids, and something as simple as giving them a chance to get outside, get fresh air, socialize with friends [and] take a break seems to be such an obvious and easy solution.”
School board member Abrar Omeish said “the science backs” giving students a short break.
“Staff have been reporting behavioral challenges that kids have come back with after being in isolation for a year and a half or so,” Omeish said Monday. “This was a really encouraging moment to develop healthy destressing opportunities.”
FCPS to end COVID testing
In a newsletter to parents last week, the school system said it will end optional weekly testing for all schools and its diagnostic drive-through testing sites at the Gatehouse Administration Center and Sideburn Center, effective Friday.
In its announcement, the county cited its high vaccination rate and its low community spread level, as defined by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Students who need a COVID-19 test can get one at a state- or county-run site or participate in the county’s test-to-stay program.
“While we are encouraged by the continued decline in COVID-19 cases in our community, we are also committed to keeping our schools safe for all to learn and work in person,” the school system said.
“Please continue to do your part to maintain a healthy learning environment by using layered prevention strategies including hand hygiene, respiratory etiquette, monitoring for illness, and staying home when sick.”