The Middletown Press (Middletown, CT)
Parents petition for more recess
‘We need to address this now,’ organizer says
MIDDLETOWN — Middletown elementary school parents continued their push for a change in the district’s recess policy with a peaceful protest held Wednesday outside the administrative offices.
A small group gathered in front of the Dr. Alfred B. Tychsen Administration Building from 1 to 6 p.m., with parents staying for as long as they could to ask the district to return to the pre-pandemic 25-minute recess instead of two 10-minute periods.
Amy Webster organized the protest through Facebook after she felt compelled to do more. She said
it’s the first time since her child began school that she’s felt this strongly about an issue.
“I’ve never spoken at board meetings. I’m not into politics, but I felt we needed to address this now,” Webster said.
She said that the latest Board of Education meeting, where many parents voiced their concerns over the policy, did not obtain the results she and other parents wanted. “We weren’t satisfied,” Webster said.
In response, she began organizing the event, and it quickly gained traction, with dozens of parents telling Webster they would join in.
“I just feel like our voices will be louder and more people will see the issue” if it’s done in public, Webster said.
Director of Communications Jessica B. Lavorgna said parents are well within their rights to protest, and commended them for doing so. She then reiterated the district’s reasoning for two 10-minute recess periods is to abide by state cohorting guidelines, and to provide all students equitable access to recess equipment.
She said that the district will be “happy to return” to the pre-pandemic policy once it is deemed safe to do so.
Colleen Sylvestre, who has three children that attend Farm Hill Elementary School, stopped by for part of the afternoon. The online petition she started to reinstate recess has now gathered over 2,000 signatures.
She said that she had recently spoken with the city’s Health Department about the issue, and staff indicated to her that 25minute recess periods would be fine, even as the pandemic continues. She also said that the equity argument is more of an excuse than anything else.
“I admire Middletown for their constant striving for equity,” Sylvestre said. “But that isn’t the issue here.”
Lavorgna revealed that the district is taking steps to listen to parent concerns and explore solutions to the issue. Superintendent Michael Conner launched a crowd-sourcing campaign with the goal of gathering thoughts and opinions from elementary school teachers and parents, she said.
“It’s an organized way to gather creative and innovative ideas for recess,” Lavorgna said.
The opportunity for comment closes Oct. 7, and preliminary data will be shared at the Oct. 12 meeting of the Board of Education.
People can email the superintendent at email@example.com.