Shaking up recess schedules brings big benefits for students, school division says

Division Scolaire Franco-Manitobaine is expanding a pilot project launched at Ecole Lacerte last year to three other schools. It’s called the balanced school day project, and it changes the way recess and lunch breaks are structured.

Division Scolaire Franco-Manitobaine expanding pilot project to more schools

Kids at É​cole Lacerte switched to the balanced school day program last year. (Megan Goddard/CBC)

Reorganizing the school day by dropping one recess period could mean fewer conflicts and happier kids in one Winnipeg school division.

Division Scolaire Franco-Manitobaine is expanding a pilot project launched at É​cole Lacerte last year to three other schools. It's called the "balanced school day" project, and it changes the way recess and lunch breaks are structured.

Instead of a 15-minute recess break in the morning and another in the afternoon, plus a half-hour recess at lunch, kids get one half-hour break in the morning and their lunch break is pushed back later in the day.

"We noticed that there was a drastic decrease in the amount of office referrals in response to little incidences [at] playtime," said Daniel Preteau, director of student services for the francophone school division.

By cutting out one of three scheduled breaks, Preteau says kids had an easier time transitioning between class time and recess. There were also fewer conflicts at recess between kids competing over playtime resources, and more time to resolve conflict when they did arise.

"Kids had more time to manage their conflicts and be more efficient in their dialogue to find solutions to their problems," he said.

Questions, concerns from parents

Preteau was principal at É​cole Lacerte last year when the pilot project was implemented. He said parents had plenty of questions when the project was introduced, but they reacted positively to the change.

"For some parents, it was a big concern. You change the school day as we've always known it to be," he said.

"I think they were real open to implementing it and we presented it as being a pilot project, so with a pilot project, you always have the opportunity to go back if things don't work out."

The project also pushed back lunch break from 11:15 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. This worked out well for a lot of students who often weren't hungry at the earlier time, Preteau said.

One of the biggest questions parents had was what to do about snacks.

Preteau said parents should think about the breaks as two lunches, and suggested inserting a piece of cardboard into lunch boxes to separate morning and afternoon meals.

Now that the program is expanding to more schools, Preteau said the school division will get a better idea of what impact the changes have on a larger number of students.

With files from Aviva Jacob


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