Dear District 97 Elementary School Families,
During the community conversation that District 97 held on Tuesday, January 23, there was a presentation about the use of master schedules in our schools. This presentation featured a sample first grade schedule that included 15 minutes in the morning for Physical Education Activity (PEA) and 55 minutes for lunch. Following this presentation, some of our families contacted us directly or took to social media to share their opinion that we should increase the number of minutes our elementary school students have to engage in movement or play during the school day. While we understand and appreciate the important roles that physical movement, exercise, and play have on the growth and development of our students, below are the reasons we will not be expanding the amount of time we commit to these activities during the school day.
The district’s current wellness guidelines state that we “shall engage families as partners in providing physical activity beyond the school day, with a goal of performing at least 60 minutes of physical activity per day in school or at home.” At this time, our elementary school schedules include 40 to 60 minutes for PEA and recess on days when students do not have physical education. On days when they do have physical education, they engage in another 30 to 60 minutes of physical activity. This does not include the time spent playing on the playground before or after school, their participation in after-school events or programs, or any activities they take part in at home. We believe the time that we have allocated for physical activity during the school day aligns with our wellness guidelines and meets the needs of our students. In addition, the allotment of more minutes for recess or PEA would mean the loss of valuable instructional time for subjects such as reading and math, which are critical to the efforts we have been undertaking to reduce the opportunity gap for our students.
We have and will continue to work with our staff to ensure that recess and PEA time are not being utilized to complete missed work or for re-teaching. We will work with our physical education teachers to ensure that we maximize the use of our PEA time for physical movement, exercise and play, including on days when there is inclement weather. We will also work with our elementary schools to improve the overall consistency of our PEA practices.
If you are seeking additional opportunities for your children to engage in play or physical activity beyond the school day, we encourage you to contact your school’s PTO, or local organizations such as the Park District of Oak Park and YMCA. These groups have a variety of events, activities and programs for kids, and often offer reduced rates or scholarships for families in need of assistance.
Thank you very much for your time and attention to this matter, and for your continued support of our schools and the students we serve.
District 97 Teaching and Learning Department