The head of the Chicago Public Schools announced on a call-in radio program Monday night that he'd advocate for the return of mandatory recess at elementary schools around the city, marking a victory for parent advocacy groups that have been fighting for it for years.
CPS CEO Jean-Claude Brizard said on WBEZ that he valued playtime for younger students, and that he would have enforced the mandate for this coming year if he'd been in office longer. Brizard was named to his current post in April of this year, coming over from Rochester Public Schools.
"We came in too late to actually push for a city-wide mandate for this fall," he said, "so we have quite a few more schools pushing recess during the school day for this coming fall. But by next fall, all schools - all elementary schools in the city - will have recess."
As of now, only 42 percent of schools have any recess at all: a mere 15 percent hold it outdoors, while 27 percent have recess in the classroom, according to a recent Chicago Sun-Times story.
Huffington Post Chicago wrote in May that CPS had asked schools to consider re-instating recess individually. Patricia O'Keefe of Raise Your Hand, a pro-recess coalition, was excited at the victory. "We're thrilled that we're going to finally stop depriving children of physical activity and the social time they deserve to be more productive members of society," she told the Chicago Tribune at the time.
And Chicago Teachers Union President Karen Lewis came out in favor of recess as well, calling it a "win-win" in a conversation with the Sun-Times.
With Brizard's blessing, the remaining 58 percent of elementaries without recess should join the fold starting in the 2012-2013 school year. With the CEO and the city's mayor, Rahm Emanuel, still pushing for a longer instructional day, some advocates say that there will be diminishing returns on those academic hours unless the students are given rest and play-time during the day.