Parents went before the Manzanita Charter Governance Board on Wednesday to speak out on behalf what they considered an important part of their child’s learning: the right to recess.
Students enrolled in Manzanita Charter started the school year with a 10-minute break, half of what they were last year, according to parents, who said that because the breaks were not unstructured time, they could not be considered recess. In effect, parents said, recess had been eliminated.
A pair of parents — they pulled their children from Manzanita because of the change — expressed frustration to the board that they weren’t contacted about the change before the break period was reduced so students would have more uninterrupted time to practice reading and writing skills.
During the break, students have a snack, but then are assigned an activity to participate, parents said.
Michelle Morales, who pulled her fourth-grade son from Manzanita before the school year started, said the time was important for the children to stay productive.
“When I work I want my 10-minute break,” the Vandenberg Village resident told the board. “I don’t’ want to be told by my boss what to do.”
She also said she pulled her child from school because of the lack of enforcement in student discipline.
Lompoc resident Sarah Dowhower, who pulled her three children out of Manzanita, expressed frustration about the shorter breaks, which was recommended by Principal Lynnda Palmer and adopted by the board last month.
Prior to Wednesday’s meeting, Dowhower said she heard complaints from her children immediately about the change.
“They all (complained),” Dowhower said. That was my daughter’s first complaint on the first day of school.”
Manzanita students start the morning with a 60-minute bloc working on writing skills, then comes the break, which is followed with a 90-minute section to focus on reading, Palmer said.
The change is part of a program called Take 10! adopted by other schools, Palmer said, although she said it hasn’t picked up in popularity in California. According to the Take 10! website, the program strives to integrate physical activity, nutrition and health concepts with academic lessons in elementary schools.
The long blocks dedicated to reading and writing is a concerted effort to improve “writing stamina,” Palmer said.
Manzanita teacher Kathy Guthrie, who has a child enrolled in the school, said there is more structure to the morning break period.
As a teacher, she said she was pleased with the change because settling students after recess typically lasted longer than 20 minutes, but Morales, the mother of the fourth-grader, said that not all teachers are pleased.
“You’re one teacher, just one,” Morales said.
Board Director Patricia Brown said that she has not received any complaints from her two sons enrolled at the school. She said the decision was unanimously supported by the board.
“Kids come to school to learn,” said Brown, who said children are offered free time.
Manzanita, co-founded by Palmer and Kathy Grbac, opened in August 2008. The school’s charter is up for renewal this fall by Lompoc Unified School District.