Archive for Thursday, December 7, 2006

Program runs out of gas

Intermediate School ends mandatory exercise at recess

December 7, 2006

Lansing school district officials have put the brakes on a walking program during lunch recess at Lansing Intermediate School - at least for now.

LIS principal Jan Jorgensen said the program ended after discussions she had with Lansing schools superintendent Randal Bagby.

"He had a parent that was pretty concerned. That parent came and talked to me, too. The best thing for us to do was to stop the walking program," Jorgensen said. "There was another parent that was upset that we stopped it. There's both sides to it."

LIS fourth- and fifth-graders began a new lunch routine this fall that required all students to walk, run or jog during their 10-minute lunch recess, which takes place before their noon meal.

Converting the lunchtime recess at LIS to a mandatory exercise period produced mixed results among students and parents.

But, Jorgensen said, many LIS teachers and staff members praised it.

"The one good thing about the walking program is the kids were actually talking to each other. They were enjoying each other's company and they were coming in calmer, so our staff really liked the program," she said.

Changes were based upon recommendations by the LIS Wellness Committee and Kansas School Wellness Policy Model Guidelines.

Changes in federal law that took effect in July required the nation's public schools to begin the school year with written wellness policies that put nutrition and exercise goals in place to combat childhood obesity.

As a result, Lansing schools made other changes, including serving meals with more whole wheat, adding more fruits and vegetables, and reducing the availability of sugary drinks and sweets.

In an interview in October, fourth-grade teacher Connie Evans credited the program with reducing conflicts among students and ensuring all students received at least 10 minutes of daily physical activity, whether they have physical education class that day.

"This was needed. Before, some kids just stood around. They didn't even walk or move," she said.

Jorgensen said she realized some students are more active than others. In the future, she said, she would like to offer a program with variety of activities for students to choose from.

"Some could walk and some could do other activities. I don't know if that's going to happen before we move. We may be able to try it," she said, referring to the school's move to the new elementary school on West Mary Street, which is scheduled for completion in December 2007.

Bagby said he made the decision to halt the LIS recess walking program after hearing from parents on all sides of the issue.

Calling the decision "nothing permanent," Bagby said he also would like to see the schools using wellness program activities that offer students choices among several available activities.

He said the district would be exploring physical activity options through the Kansas Department of Transportation's Safe Routes to Schools program.

In October, the district learned it had been approved for a $14,000 grant through the program, which, in part, promotes walking and biking to school and helps establish safe walkways, trails and bike paths.

Bagby said construction of the new auditorium and band room at Lansing High School also factored into his decision to put the walking program on hold.

This fall, the size of the LIS playground was reduced when the district opened up parking west of the baseball field on the LIS playground.

The additional parking helped alleviate the loss of more than 100 parking spaces when construction began at LHS, but it created safety concerns among some parents who were worried about traffic on the playground.

Jorgensen said she was sorry to see the program go, in part, because it worked well in the limited amount of space available.

"I think most of the kids benefited from it. I liked that they were all walking and communicating with each other. I wish we could have a big, nice walking trail," she said.

On the playground, fourth-grader Claire Jacobs said she preferred playing on the swings during lunchtime recess.

"I'm happy that we don't have to walk. Walking and talking is boring," she said. "I like playing on the playground."

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