JAMES CITY - After a handful of parents spoke up Tuesday about abbreviated recess to make up for classroom time lost due to snow, several School Board members responded by acknowledging the difficulty of the decision and voicing support for the administration's solution.
"They had a very good process and it was very well thought out," board vice chair Jim Kelly said, referring to the method detailed in a letter Superintendent Steve Constantino posted Feb. 7 on the WJC Schools website. The process included getting input from elementary school principals and other staff members.
"You can't have one decision that everyone's going to appreciate," Kelly said.
Board member Jim Nickols concurred, saying, "Looking at the options, it seemed to be the best one."
Students in Williamsburg-James City Schools lost five full days due to snow and its aftermath. Secondary schools don't have to make up those days because their longer-than-required school day will still satisfy the 990 teaching hours that state law requires. However, the elementary schools did need to make up time, which the school divsion did by extending the school day by five minutes, cutting recess down to 15 minutes and extending two early-release days into full school days beginning Feb. 10.
With parents concerned that their children's attention spans would be negatively impacted by the decision to shorten recess, Nickols responded by saying: "I want to offer credit to the teachers in understanding what they need to do in the classroom to maintain the learning environment."
"We're all sensitive to the needs of students," he said. "That's our business, that's why we're here. ... But given the hand we are dealt, we have constraints. I think ultimately we made the best but not the easiest decision."
Parents also said they were concerned that the students wouldn't be getting enough exercise. Board member Elise Emanuel assured parents that teachers have been given guidance on how to incorporate movement into lessons.
Board chairwoman Ruth Larson said the discussion over snow days this year will likely lead to better communication next year regarding potential snow days, based on a recent conversation she had with another member of the administration.
Larson also said she felt the conflict over recess "speaks to a larger problem" of kids being overscheduled.
"(It is) not just at the schools' door, but the way we're scheduling ourselves overtime, and we're scheduling our kids overtime," she said. "Kids don't get the chances like many of us did to go out and play after school. There's always something going on. I hope this all leads to a larger discussion about what are some other ways we can reduce the pressure on kids."
Sampson can be reached at 757-345-2345.