Extra time for lunch and recess? Bring it!

February 27, 2011 at 7:32 am 18 comments

The Raise Your Hand group has been digging deeper into the “modified open campus” option for elementary schools that allows them to extend their school day for extra lunch and recess time. Of course it doesn’t give any extra learning time, but I think most parents would agree that having a nice relaxing lunch, recess time, and socialization is a good part of a kid’s day.

Some schools currently utilize this option already. Expanding extended lunch/recess is currently on a school-by-school basis and the principal and teachers needs to agree to it. I’ll follow up with RYH to see if they know how the process works. (What % of teachers need to approve it? Is extra staff required to watch kids during that time?) RYH is figuring out if this could be a CPS-wide initiative, which would certainly make things easier.

I think this’ll be interesting to discuss in light of the recent teacher’s union topics in the national news. I feel like in the past, schools may have been hesitant to propose this to their teachers, or assumed teachers wouldn’t support it. I have to wonder if the current union discussion make it more or less likely for teachers to support this? I believe there are a few school who currently have the extended day in place already and it certainly doesn’t seem to drive teachers away. On the other hand, I can think of some schools where I suspect the teachers would just scoff at the notion.

For now, if your school is interested in pursuing the extended day, RYH can help support your efforts. Here’s their info:


From RYH:
While mayors were being elected, governors in nearby states being rallied against and entire countries in political upheaval, a quiet but extremely important movement was happening in the CPS board room. Without fanfare or a war chest of money or backing of a single celebrity, a member of Raise Your Hand waited hours to spend just 180 seconds proposing a plan to effectively extend the school day for CPS students by 40 minutes. A method to add an additional 40 minutes to every school day is currently in the teachers union contract. Referred to as “open campus” but having nothing to do with kids actually leaving the school grounds, this method was eliminated in the 1970’s and replaced with a “closed campus” at many CPS schools.

The switch from closed to open campus took recess and a longer lunch break out of the middle of the day and placed them at the end of the day. While this moved shorten the school day, it also took away the time children need mid day to run around, burn off some steam and eat lunch in a proper time frame. Raise Your Hand asked the CPS school board to go back to the “old” version of school, one in which includes recess and a longer lunch period.

The board seemed surprised to hear of this option, an option that has been available all along. Members of the board raised some questions, concerns and expressed some skepticism. More will be fleshed out and discussed over the ensuing days. The idea has the ear of the Chicago Teachers Union and they have been in communication with us regarding this proposal.

The following has gone out to the Raise Your Hand email list and is posted on the Illinois Raise Your Hand website. Traffic and discussion has spiked incredibly since this went out. Of course there will be road blocks, scheduling issues etc. but the important thing to remember is that this is a viable option, one worthy of discussion and exploration.

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18 Comments Add your own

  • 1. second time around  |  February 27, 2011 at 11:15 am

    I am so happy to hear that this is getting going. When I worked for CPS ten years ago in a bad neighborhood, we were told our lunch was at the end of the day.Further questions revealed that the board had voted for this option years ago out of safety, as they felt many of Chicago’s neighborhoods were dangerous and felt it too risky to be outside during the day for lunch and recess. Supposedly some teachers did not feel comfortable, so this loophole was created to still have an extended lunch and recess at the end of the day. I think at that time there were more poor families at CPS than today, so no one put up a fight to change things. If we had an online petition to sign in favor of this, I’m sure we could help support a lot of positive change.

  • 2. copy editor  |  February 27, 2011 at 12:52 pm

    Let’s start by getting back the time that will be lost to breakfast.

  • 3. mom2  |  February 27, 2011 at 2:17 pm

    I agree with copy editor regarding breakfast. If that is mandated for all schools, we are going in the opposite direction of what is really needed which is a longer school day with more time for lunch, recess and mostly for learning. Some schools do not need this and should have the right to opt out of it.

    I certainly agree that having a reasonable time for lunch and recess would be a great thing. I just want to make sure that if all the effort is placed into getting this option in schools that can handle it, are safe enough, etc. that it doesn’t take away from the other very urgent efforts of increasing the CPS school day so more time is also spent in learning.

  • 4. HSObsessed  |  February 27, 2011 at 8:36 pm

    I think the big stumbling block will be getting the teachers in any given school to see the benefit of this. Perhaps the RYH people should collect statements from principals and teachers who are currently using the open campus system that making glowing statements about why they prefer it, and perhaps that will sway others. My child’s school has the open campus and I remember the former principal talking about how strongly he felt about it. He felt it not only gave the kids a way to burn off energy at recess, just as importantly, it gave the teachers a much-needed physical and mental break, during which they could eat a meal in a collegial atmosphere with their fellow staff members.

    Keep in mind that this proposal is NOT asking the teachers to work an extra 45 minutes a day. Every (non-charter) CPS elementary school has 6.5 hours “scheduled” but at the closed campus schools, the teachers chose to move their 45-minute lunch break to the end of their work day. Many teachers go home at that time, so it feels like the end of their scheduled day, when it really isn’t.

    If there are situations in which a principal and parents are in favor of the open campus but the teachers resist it (and they are allowed to do so under their current contract), perhaps the principal can add pressure by mandating that the teacher lunch break must be enjoyed on school grounds. That sounds heavy handed but you know what, my corporate employer would not appreciate hearing that I’ve decided to take my hour lunch hour at the end of each day instead of around noon. Why should it be different in a school setting?

  • 5. HSObsessed  |  February 27, 2011 at 8:38 pm

    @mom2, I think the breakfast program is going to “mandated” in the same way that Illinois state law “mandates” daily PE for all IL school children, and yet only a handful of CPS schools comply. We have received news that our CPS school will simply continue the breakfast program we already have in place (free for anyone who wants it, before school starts).

  • 6. come'on teachers wake up  |  February 28, 2011 at 6:09 pm

    Teachers on this blog are complaining that recess is not possible to manage. Well how is it done in every other Illinois school district???

  • 7. Hawthorne mom  |  February 28, 2011 at 7:16 pm

    #6, I tried to find where teachers were talking about recess but couldn’t on the 299 blog. I believe the fear among teachers will be that recess will be added into the school day and that whereas according to the CPS contract, that time is supposed to be “duty free”, teachers know the reality is that they will be supervising recess duty some days or every day. It is a combination of a shortage of paraprofessionals in the system who could be supervising recess and the fact that CPS as a whole is very dysfunctional. You’d be amazed at the simple things CPS schools can screw up!
    From my point of view (as an unemployed teacher), I’d just take my lunch out to recess with me and eat it while I watched kids. It isn’t like I actually have a chance to eat in the 10 minutes I have left after making sure kids get through the lunch line, I open milk cartons for the ones who still have trouble with that and I run to the bathroom. Recess lets kids let of steam, preventing behavior issues before they start. And our Hawthorne teachers even call kids over to do one on one assessments during recess time, so that is possible too. From my point of view, what’s another 20 minutes tacked onto to what always used to amount to a 12+ hour day for me to begin with? I don’t believe any of us will be having nice “collegial lunches” but I do want my students to be able to go out for recess even if I have to go with them.

  • 8. Gayfair Dad  |  February 28, 2011 at 11:50 pm

    Somewhere around here I have a letter from Arne Duncan (when CPS CEO) endorsing recess. Said letter was ignored by the teaching and administrative staff at my son’s elementary school, John M Palmer, where they used to hand out trinkets that said “Students First”, in order to brainwash and opiate the populace. Same school that turned down big Fed $$ from our now Mayor to become an IB school. Wonder why.

  • 9. kmb  |  March 1, 2011 at 10:36 am

    A few years ago my daughter’s school tried to implement the open campus. It was voted down I assume by the teacher’s though at the time we were told the school board wouldn’t allow it. I think it is not going to be as easy as it sounds. My daughter was in prek at the time so I didn’t pay much attention.

  • 10. Scooby Snacks  |  March 1, 2011 at 1:33 pm

    So two things are worth pointing out in this debate. The first is that this will not increase instructional time. Second is that this will cost $$$ because teachers are not suppossed to be “on duty” during their lunch period. It will be grieved by the Union if they do not have this period to do planning. Each school does have the option to implement it, but the teachers need to vote to adopt and no one has presented a cogent arguement as to how this helps the teachers>>I would love a longer school day that accomidated more lunch and recess – but let’s be honest our focus should be on securuing a longer school day with additional time for instruction,

  • 11. Ravenswood Mom  |  March 1, 2011 at 2:19 pm

    Just want to point out one thing that was mentioned on the Raise Your Hand website, but not in summary posted here is that RYH has already approached CTU and has received preliminary buy-in from them. This initiative is going to be a long and bumpy road, but kudos to RYH for having the forethought to go to CTU first (even before they approached the board).

  • 12. Buy-in?  |  March 1, 2011 at 3:46 pm

    Hmmmm… Just what exactly does ‘buy-in’ mean? They agree to abide by the terms of the contract that says that teachers/admin get final say-so as to whether the school goes open-campus? I bet it was real tough getting them to buy in to that!!

    Or, did they say that they will stop their efforts to obstruct moves toward open campuses, as they have been inclined to do in the past?

  • 13. More instructional time  |  March 1, 2011 at 3:50 pm

    In some schools, this option would increase instructional time because currently recess is held during instructional time.

  • 14. Old Timer  |  April 13, 2011 at 8:29 pm

    Let’s get a few things straight here. The voting works like this. If you are a closed campus school only the principal decides whether or not to create the recommendation committee of LSC parents and teachers (selected by the principal of course) and then to a vote on switching to open campus. And I know many teachers who have brought up the concept only to be shot down by a principal that doesn’t want all the perceived headaches that open campus brings; in particular the higher amounts of detentions and suspensions that are given for recess time misbehavior. And these numbers effect a principals rating.

    As for schools that are currently open campus and voting on going closed campus (like my school was a few years ago), it also requires a vote by the teachers ONLY if the principal brings it to them. Many of our teachers had been on the closed campus model at other schools and were opposed to it. So much for thinking that all teachers are concerned about is going home early.

    I then noticed a provision in the contract called “Appendix C” which allows the teachers to vote on an alternative model to both closed and open campus. AND it only requires 50%+1 (as opposed to 67% for switching from open to closed or vice-versa). So that’s what we did.

    We created a schedule that allows for a 45 minute lunch for all students and staff. The students eat anywhere from 20 to 25 minutes (depending on grade level) and the rest of the time is recess. Our students get the full number of instructional minutes, and our school day ends at 3 o’clock (as opposed to 2:30 or 3:15).

    BTW: many kids are benefiting greatly from the extra 15 minutes that the CBOE and CTU agreed upon with the last contract, as well as the breakfast program. Many of our teachers utilize this time as an eat&read period in the morning. They get their attendance done while many students partake of the breakfasts. And then at 9:15 the kids are well fed, well-read, and ready to start their school day.

  • 15. Gayfair Dad  |  May 23, 2011 at 8:34 pm


    I feel like suing for reparations. This is a big achievement? Recess had to be fought for? Why?

  • 16. cpsobsessed  |  May 23, 2011 at 8:40 pm

    GFDad, I know the feeling. When I read the article I had 2 reactions: One is the same one I had when my company went all casual years ago (waaahooo! too good to be true!!) The other is: what was the freakin’ obstacle?

    The teacher’s union doesn’t want teachers to feel “pressured” to have to take their lunch in the middle of the day instead of the end of the day. Hmph. I’m sorry, as parents in CPS I think we should be allowed to exert a little pressure to let our kids run around for 20 minutes a day, no?

  • 17. Old Timer  |  May 24, 2011 at 7:52 am

    Sorry to burst the anti-union/ all-teachers-want-to-go-home-early bubble here, but many teachers feel pressure from the administrator into voting for the closed campus model (assuming that the administrator even follows the rules and allows them to vote). The teachers at my school who have been on closed campus hate the shorter lunch and rushed atmosphere it creates, that’s why we have voted against it. Administrators love it because it means less detentions and suspensions for bad behavior during recess.

    Like the reparation idea, only take the money from administration; the REAL culprits in this “mystery” as to how we ever got into this no-recess mentality. And why you’re at it, how about the raising test scores at all costs mentality. Now THAT is what is truly pressuring teachers, students, and parents alike.

  • 18. Gayfair Dad  |  May 24, 2011 at 3:46 pm

    @17 “Administrators love it because it means less detentions and suspensions for bad behavior during recess.”….which in my experience meant less to lie about and have to intentionally hide from the community and police. Yes, the teachers were intimidated into voting the way the ‘administration’ wanted, when on the one occasion, they were forced into having an actual voting process. A fish stinks from its head.

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