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Hundreds debate recess in East Providence

August 24, 2010

Parents packed an East Providence elementary school to hear district officials explain why they have eliminated 10 to 15 minutes of free play before and after lunch. Angela Congdon, the mother of a 4th-grader, says she can’t understand the policy.

“How can you take recess away,” She said. “All children need that 10 to 15 minutes to just blow off steam.”

School officials tried to reassure parents that the plan is to give kids at least 15 minutes to run around whenever teachers feel they need it.

“We’re not taking away recess,” said East Providence Superintendent Mario Cirillo. “We’re trying to make it better.”

But many parents were not convinced. Cirillo’s explanations were met with cries of “we don’t want it” and “save recess” from the crowd.

Cirillo and the parents and teachers at the meeting agreed on one thing: research shows free play is important for everything from social and cognitive development to fighting obesity. School officials say they can still provide that, even without traditional lunchtime recess. They also point out that students have plenty of time for unstructured activities when they get home from school.

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