Saturday, January 15, 2011

A Selection of Outdoor Recess Policies in NY and the U.S.

School District Outdoor Recess Guidelines and Policies


New York CIty, NY

Excerpted from the New York CIty Department of Education Wellness Policies on Physical Activity and Nutrition:

Physical Activity

Integrating Physical Activity into the Classroom Setting - For students to receive the nationally-recommended 60 minutes of physical activity per day, they need opportunities for physical activity beyond physical education class. Toward that end principals are encouraged to:
Provide classroom health education that complements physical education by reinforcing the knowledge and self-management skills needed to maintain a physically active lifestyle and to reduce time spent on sedentary activities, such as watching television.
Provide opportunities for physical activity as part of other subject lessons.
Have classroom teachers provide short physical activity breaks between lessons or classes, as appropriate.
SPARK, a curriculum designed for classroom teachers to integrate physical activity into the school day, is being implemented in many schools.
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 staff encourage moderate to vigorous physical activity and appropriate space and equipment are provided. DOE policy states that outdoor play is permitted regardless of temperature, when weather conditions are appropriate.
Physical Activity Opportunities Before and After School - All elementary, middle, and high schools will be encouraged to offer extracurricular physical activity programs, such as physical activity clubs and intramural programs. All high schools, and middle schools, are encouraged to offer interscholastic sports programs. Schools are encouraged to offer a range of activities that meet the needs, interests, and abilities of all students, including boys, girls, students with disabilities, and students with special health-care needs.
After-school child care and enrichment programs will encourage daily periods of moderate to vigorous physical activity for all participants to the extent possible.
Physical Activity and Punishment - DOE discourages teachers and other school and community personnel from using physical activity (e.g., running laps, pushups) or withholding opportunities for physical activity (e.g., recess, physical education) as punishment.

From the NYC Department of Education Principals Weekly Post on this issue:

Guidelines for Outdoor Play in Cold Weather
All schools
Some schools continue to keep children inside when the temperature is below 32 degrees. This is not consistent with current Health Department recommendations or current DOE policy. Children benefit from vigorous exercise and should be given the opportunity to play outside whenever possible. Unless it is snowing or there is ice on the playground, low temperatures should not be a barrier to outside play, as long as children are appropriately dressed. The Health Department strongly encourages principals to maintain outdoor play periods on the vast majority of winter days. For additional information, contact Roger Platt, M.D.

P.S. 174 Rego Park, NY
from their website:

Many years ago, schools were advised to keep children inside when the temperature is below 32 degrees. In 2004, the Department of Health and Mental Hygiene reviewed this policy and recommended that a combination of factors should be used to determine whether outdoor play is advisable.

Children benefit from vigorous exercise and should be given the opportunity to play outside whenever possible. You should use your judgment in determining whether conditions are satisfactory for outside play in cold weather, based on the temperature, wind speed, precipitation, and other factors. For example, outside play on a sunny, windless day when the temperature is below 32 degrees can be suitable as long as children are appropriately dressed. Note that occasionally, children with asthma may experience increased symptoms when playing in cold weather (however, exercise-related asthma may occur at any temperature and can usually be prevented by pre-treatment).

Beacon City School District

Outdoor recess during the winter months will be decided on a daily basis. If the temperature is 32 degrees or higher, then all of the students will go outside for their recess time. In addition to examining the actual temperature, the wind chill is also taken into consideration when determining outdoor recesses.
Children are expected to come in prepared to go outside. They must have a winter coat, gloves, hats, and snow boots. If a child is not fully equipped for outdoor play, they will have to stay inside or stay in a location outside that is not covered with snow.

Bethlehem Central School District Delmar, NY

Hamagrael Elementary Delmar, NY- Above 0 degrees F barring extreme wind or rain. Snowshoeing program in addition.

City School District of Albany

No official guidelines. Discretionary by Principal or teacher, depending on school.

Public Schools of the Tarrytowns:

Students will play outdoors when: Temperatures are above 25° with consideration given to wind chill factor There is light precipitation (e.g. snow flurries, drizzle) Snow is on the ground, depending upon how different play areas are affected -
Tappan Hill – Students will go out every day
John Paulding - Students will go for a walk if the playground is not safely accessible. If students have been indoors for several days during a given week, they will have outdoor recess on Fridays.
W. L. Morse - Students will play outdoors in designated plowed areas
Washington Irving - Students will play outdoors in designated plowed areas.

Wappingers Central School District NY

No official policy. Each principal decides, sometimes in conjunction with the nurse. Some schools leave it to teacher discretion. At some or all schools, the teachers do go out with the kids while others stay in, so improperly dressed students stay in and others go out.

Other U.S. States

West Hartford Public Schools West Hartford, CT

The district’s outdoor recess policy dictates that ALL students will go outside for recess if the temperature is 20 degrees Fahrenheit or above. This temperature takes the wind chill into consideration. Children should be dressed appropriately for outdoor recess. Warm clothes, gloves, hats and boots are suggested during the winter months. Children are not permitted to play in the snow unless they are wearing boots and snow pants.
Children well enough to come to school should be well enough to go out for recess. Exceptions for medical reasons should be directed to our school nurse.

River Trails School District 26 Mount Prospect, IL

We have updated our guidelines for outdoor recess. The temperature needs to be warmer than 15 degrees, including wind chill, for the students to be outside. This means that if the weather is 22, but if the wind chill is 14, then the students stay in.

Olathe School DIstrict Olathe, KS

Recess guidelines
Cold weather may also affect whether elementary students have outdoor recess. Outdoor recess will be conducted if
The outside air temperature and/or wind chill is 20° F or greater
There is no falling precipitation.
Limited outdoor recess will be held if the outside air temperature and/or wind chill is between 10° and 19° F.
Indoor recess will be held if the outside air temperature and/or wind chill is lower than 10° F or if there is falling precipitation.

Montgomery Public Schools Rockville, MD

There is no MCPS policy specific to recess. Each school in the county makes similar decisions, but primarily makes an independent assessment based upon temperature, (including wind chill factor); the condition of the play surfaces; weather forecasts; and the number of days the children have already been inside. The MCPS Wellness Policy and Regulations encourage physical activity during the day, after the day, and before the day for kids, staff, and the community. These are broad strokes of healthy things to do. For more information go to the following web sites:

Woodlin Elementary Woodlin
When the air and wind chill is in the low 20’s or 10’s in temperature, students are kept inside for indoor recess. This is for the safety of students and the supervising adults. While many students run around and are dressed appropriately, others are not and extended time at freezing temperatures can be a hardship for the adults and students. We have frequent requests from our families with students who suffer from asthma to stay in for recess. While this does not directly influence our decision, it is an additional topic that we consider. However, even in the cold winter months, we believe outdoor recess is an important and valuable part of the student’s day. Teachers agree that students perform best at school when they have an opportunity for vigorous outdoor play, so we try to get them out whenever possible.

Hulsing Elementary School Canton, MI

Children will go outside for recess everyday unless the wind chill index is below 15 degrees according to the National Weather Service (Willow Run) or it is raining. This guideline has been established in conjunction with the Wayne County Health Department.

MN- various districts

Inner Grove Heights Community Schools Independent School District 199 Inner Grove Heights, MN

The elementary school principals in District 199 have set the following guidelines in determining whether children will be allowed to go outside for recess: if the outside air temperature is less than 0 degrees Farenheit or the wind chill is -10 degrees or

The Saint Paul Public School District uses a guideline of 0 degrees or colder air temperature, or below 0 wind-chill. These schools get most of their weather information from web sites that use official temperature and wind-chill for the Minneapolis/Saint Paul area.

The Anoka/Hennepin school district, which covers much of the Twin Cities from Bloomington to Coon Rapids, has a policy that recess will be held indoors if the air temperature is 0 degrees or colder, or the wind-chill is -10 below or colder.

The Minneapolis Public Schools have a plan that allows the principal of each school to determine if recess will be indoors or outdoors. The policy does not use a specific temperature but counts on a common sense approach.

Rockwood School District Eureka, MO

The Rockwood School District has developed guidelines for outdoor recess during extreme temperatures. It is important for all students to dress appropriately during extreme temperatures. The following guidelines have been developed by factoring in the wind chill and heat index.

Temperature (Including wind chill or heat index)
Below 20 degrees Stay Inside
20-95 degrees Outside
96 degrees & above Stay Inside

School District of South Orange and Mapplewood, NJ

Guidelines for Outdoor Recess in the Elementary Schools

Part of our healthy daily routine in the South Orange-Maplewood Schools includes outdoor recess at the elementary school. Research shows that children need fresh air, exercise, and sunshine. Physical activity is not only healthy for a child’s body, but it also stimulates brain activity. Play—whether vigorous or sedentary—can provide intense skill learning. Physical activity is known to lessen the symptoms of mild attention deficit disorder, and is associated with much lower incidences of childhood obesity. A daily break of fifteen minutes or more in the school day plays a role in improving learning, social development, and health in elementary school children.

All six elementary schools strive for standardizing the decision-making for outdoor recess based on weather conditions, and elementary principals use the following guidelines to determine whether it is appropriate for students to go outdoors:

Students have the appropriate clothing
The temperature, including the wind-chill, is no lower than 20 degrees Fahrenheit.
It is not raining heavily
The wind is not excessive
Playground safety is a factor at each individual school site
There are no icy conditions on the play surfaces
Steps and walkways are cleared of snow
There is no heavy ice on branches or power lines in or near the play area
Metallic playground equipment is not too hot to the touch
There is a sufficient number of staff members to supervise children both indoors and on the playground in the event it is necessary that a group of children need to remain indoors.

Keeping active everyday will help make children less vulnerable to illnesses in cold weather. Children are usually thrilled to go outside when the snow begins to fly. To ensure that children have a safe and fun winter at school, the following clothing is recommended: a winter jacket, a warm hat, warm mittens or gloves, and boots. This will ensure a comfortable recess for all. Dressing in layers helps to keep children comfortable during fluctuations in the temperature both indoors and outdoors.

Since children who have recess behave better and are likely to learn more, they should not be excused from outdoor recess without a written medical reason from a physician. Further, a child should not miss his or her entire recess period as a consequence for work missed in the classroom or as a consequence for an infraction.

Forest Hills Local Schools Cincinnati, OH

Outdoor Recess
If the temperature is above 20 degrees and the wind chill is above 15 degrees, recess is outdoors.
Brief Outdoor Recess (ten minutes)
If the wind chill is between 5 and 15, regardless of the temperature, then a brief outdoor recess is held.

Spring CIty Elementary Spring CIty, PA

Whenever there is a concern about whether or not we are going to have outdoor recess we look online
Below are the guidelines for determining if we hold outdoor recess: The presence of ice or snow on the playground Wind Chill
If the wind chill is below freezing (but above 20 degrees) lunch recess will be half time (15 minutes) If the wind chill is 20 degrees or lower, students do not go out for recess.
High Winds
Sustained winds of 15-18 MPH or greater, regardless of the temperature, cancels any outdoor recess.
During the cold months, please be sure that your child is dressed appropriately wearing a warm coat, hat, scarf and gloves.
When outdoor recess is cancelled due to inclement weather, recess will be held in the gymnasium. To preserve the gym floor we would like all children to wear or bring sneakers for indoor recess. Thank you!

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