Recess to make a comeback at Belle Terre

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Belle Terre Elementary Principal Stephen Hinson, who makes a point of greeting each child and teacher as he walks the outdoor corridors, said the school took away recess last year because of safety concerns.

The school currently has a playground divided into four quadrants of approximately 50-by-70 yards each, by Hinson’s estimation.

“If you put 200 kids into a confined area, it’s difficult to supervise,” he said, likening the scenario to rolling a large number of ping-pong balls in a wire basket.

Without recess, bullying and student injuries have decreased, Hinson said. When recess was in full force, he said the nurse’s office sometimes looked like a “triage.”

Still, some parents and teachers believe free time and recess are essential for children’s development; Hinson argues that no activity at a school should be totally unstructured.

It’s with that mindset that he delivered a presentation to the School Board tonight, April 19, proposing the building of a miniature golf course on Belle Terre school grounds.

A majority of students are in favor of the idea, he said; it’s also cheaper than buying new playground equipment, more cerebral and well structured.

But for now, Hinson said teachers are professionals. “They know when to take a break in class,” he said. “They don’t wait until the students’ brains are on fire.”

Plus, without recess there’s more time to focus on academics — which will be difficult to give up next year, he said, given the pressures on students to reach state standards on tests.

“Where is it, as a school, that we should be going?” he said, pointing to the A-rating the school enjoys. “Academics are our No. 1 priority.”

Hinson said that with a proposed increase in green space outside of the school’s courtyard, recess will be reinstated next year in some form, barring staffing concerns. He added that recess will probably be scheduled more regularly for kindergartners through second-graders.

— Mike Cavaliere contributed to this story.



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