A group of parents are asking the Anchorage School District to increase the time elementary students have for recess and lunch to 60 minutes. ASD Deputy Superintendent Mark Stock said most Anchorage schools have 40 to 45 minutes which includes time on the playground as well as the time to eat lunch.

Carey Carpenter, a parent with students at Sand Lake Elementary, is leading the charge for longer recess times. Carpenter doesn't believe 45 minutes is enough and says research backs that up.

"There's a ton of research that says longer recess helps kids be healthier, helps their social and emotional learning and helps their grades," said Carpenter. "So, if what we are really going for is kids to get better grades and do better on testing scores, being healthier and having more play time during the day is a means to that end."

Carpenter said two years ago, students at Sand Lake got 60 minutes for recess and lunch but that changed last year when the district purchased a new curriculum for elementary schools that placed a bigger emphasis on academics and left less time for lunch and recess.

Mark Stock said the new curriculum is meant to increase reading scores. Alaskan fourth-graders scored the lowest in the country in a national reading assessment that was done in 2017. Stock said getting reading scores up is a priority for the district.

"If students come out of those elementary schools not reading well they have no access for the rest of their lives to the things they need to know," said Stock. "So, it is absolutely critical that we balance these recess needs with the reading needs and it's constantly a juggling act for our principals."

The district is still in discussions with parents who want more time for physical activity according to Stock, but he's not sure where that extra time would come from. He said teachers should have the flexibility to give students exercise time if they feel they need it on a case by case basis. He also said the district is complying with a state law that mandates Alaskan students get at least 54 minutes of physical movement a day at school, although only a portion of that comes from recess time.

Stock pointed out that the district has a shorter day than many others across the country, six and a half hours compared to seven. Parents like Carpenter say the district should consider increasing the length of the school day, but only if it means more time would be dedicated to recess.

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