‘I have a first grader who hasn’t been outside since October.’ Mom questions lack of recess.

Mom says her children aren’t getting enough physical activity at school

Janine Schmedding- Bartley said at a Fayette County Schools public hearing that her children who attend Millcreek Elementary don't get enough outdoor activities, even in warm weather.
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Janine Schmedding- Bartley said at a Fayette County Schools public hearing that her children who attend Millcreek Elementary don't get enough outdoor activities, even in warm weather.

A mother of two Fayette County students is questioning the amount of physical activity her children get at school saying her “first grader hasn’t been outside since October.”

Janine Schmedding-Bartley, who has two children at Millcreek Elementary, took her concerns to a public hearing about the Fayette County school district’s annual wellness report on Monday.

She said her fifth-grade daughter and her first-grade son get far less physical activity than was offered at schools in Michigan. The family moved from there to Lexington this academic year.

Though her concerns were expressed just prior to a major cold front coming, she wasn’t suggesting that children have outside recess in extremely cold temperatures.

Schmedding-Bartley said her fifth-grade daughter gets inside recess frequently “but it’s computer time and not social time, and not really physical activity time.”

She hopes that Fayette County Public Schools will have more physical activity goals, she said.

In Michigan, her fifth grader was getting at least 40 minutes of outside recess every day unless wind chills were below zero, she said. In Lexington, “if she’s lucky and they actually go outside she might get 15 minutes.”

After the hearing, Debbie Boian, Fayette County Health and Wellness Coordinator, shared the mother’s concerns with school board members at their regular monthly meeting.

Boian plans to contact the Millcreek wellness committee that includes the physical education teacher, and set up mentoring programs between teachers, she said.

“While we recognize that the use of the school day is totally the school’s decision, we are going to share some resources with the P.E. teacher at Millcreek so they can pass those on to classroom teachers,” said Boian. That means physical education teachers will help teachers add more physical activities in the classroom.

“Getting up and moving around helps kids focus” in the classroom, she said.

Schmedding-Bartley said she went to school district officials before talking to school administrators about making changes.

In response, Greg Ross, principal at Millcreek,said he didn’t agree with Schmedding-Bartley’s characterization of the physical activities at the school. Students receive an uninterrupted daily 20 minutes recess and physical education classes last 55 minutes, he said.

“Whenever weather is permitting, our kids go outside,” Ross said. He said that in freezing cold weather, indoor recesses still allow for “movement breaks.” Also, students receive movement breaks throughout the day that are based on state standards, he said. And Millcreek has a free intramural program that allows students to participate in programs such as basketball and soccer.

Students with special needs receive additional movement breaks based on their individualized plans, Ross said.

Meanwhile, concerns are also being expressed on the statewide level with a proposal by the Kentucky Board of Education that one advocate said could lead to physical activity having less emphasis in Kentucky public schools.

The Kentucky Board of Education has proposed changes to its statewide accountability system “to remove any future accountability measures for health and physical education,” said Jamie Sparks, executive director of the Kentucky Association for Health, Physical, Education, Recreation & Dance.

“This will only further erode school expectations for ensuring students get adequate amount of time in physical education and physical activity,” said Sparks, who said he was the coordinated school health director for the Kentucky Department of Education until May 2018.

In response, Kentucky Department of Education spokeswoman Jessica Fletcher said state law sets more parameters for schools to develop wellness policies, not the state department.

House Bill 88, under consideration in the 2019 General Assembly, would establish a goal of providing 20 minutes of physical activity for students in kindergarten through fifth grade each day or 100 minutes each week by November 2020.

Sponsored by state Rep. Kimberly Poore Moser, R-Taylor Mill, the legislation would require the Department of Education to identify model programs and support schools in providing more physical activity.