Playing Six Feet Apart

How is Myers Elementary School handling social distancing guidelines at recess?


Zach Miller

Teachers at Myers have had to reconfigure recess to adhere to COVID-19 safety guidelines.

Haley Campbell, Video/Multi-Media Editor

The American term of “education recess” is a time where students are temporarily dismissed from their school duties to have playtime with other students. This time is crucial to developing young students’ socialization skills.

So what does a school do when they are given social distancing guidelines and told to keep children separated?

Currently Myers Elementary school is utilizing the playground, auxiliary field, the space in front of the school, and the baseball field to to spread students out throughout the facilities as a part of its COVID-19 response plan.

Myers is also allowing students to take off their masks during this time. Elementary Principal Matthew Stinson explained, “Teachers are monitoring students and reminding them of social distance.”

“It worries me in the sense that you want everybody six feet apart; however, realistically that cannot happen, so we’re doing our best.

— Matthew Stinson

Some challenges have been present in these new recess methods. Stinson explained that the social aspect of recess is being disturbed by the new guidelines.

“We would love to keep grade levels together, but at times we can only manage to have two classes out in one area, while the other two classes are in a separate area. It is a challenge because we want everyone to be together, building friendships,” Mr. Stinson said.

Stinson spoke with other elementary school principals in the area to develop a plan to successfully conduct a safe recess period, and teachers have helped to perfect scheduling for when certain groups of students can be outside. Many changes have been made to the previous way recess was run. 

Before the Coronavirus pandemic hit the US in March, Myers was permitted to allow multiple grade levels to enjoy recess time all together. Myers now takes extra precautions to insure grade levels do not overlap at recess. Similar to the high school, elementary school grade levels are put into two groups, and this decides which group can be in certain areas during recess time. 

Because the weather has been mild to start the school year, Myers has not had to worry about indoor recess. However, this is a concern for many teachers.

First grade teacher Mrs. Cindy Szynal said recess indoors will be much more than a simple trip to the Kinder Station to play.

“Trying to social distance and play will be a big challenge,” she said. “We will likely end up using hallways, and other areas to separate students. We will also be focused on disinfecting toys.”

Being indoors provides a more confined space for students, which causes social distancing to be extremely difficult. Myers faculty are meeting quite frequently to devise possible ideas to successfully have a safe and fun indoor recess for students. They plan to have students go outside even on colder days, even if just for a short period of time, to insure students are getting fresh air. This is important in today’s world, being we are constantly making use of masks, and breathing trapped carbon dioxide which can cause problems such as hypoxia and hypercapnia.

Students now split recess time between the playground, and other areas (Zach Miller)

Some things common to modern day recess are now prohibited. For example students are not permitted to play a simple game of football because it requires close contact amongst other students.

“It worries me in the sense that you want everybody six feet apart; however, realistically that cannot happen, so we’re doing our best,” Mr. Stinson said. 

The Kinder Station at Myers has been changed tremendously as well. Many toys have been removed due to the fact that they are able to be disinfected. Toys like dolls with clothing, stuffed animals, and comfort blankets are now not to be seen in the elementary school. Large recess equipment on the playground is cleaned.

Even items that should be common to every school have been removed for disinfecting issues. Books are an excellent example. Myers is currently developing new ideas to allow books in the elementary school.

Myers is still perfecting the way recess is being held at the school, but students and faculty seem to have been adjusting to these changes well.

Mr. Stinson says, “The Myers students have done a fabulous job with the new guidelines, we have not had instances where defiance has occurred. The staff as well have been doing an excellent job keeping students safe.”