As more Chicago public schools cash in on Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s longer-day financial incentives by adding 90 minutes to their school day, the previous votes by a dozen schools to add about a half hour to the day by bringing back recess are going unnoticed.
Restoring recess is part of a broader health push by parents, advocacy groups and some city officials to bring more exercise and better nutrition to both schoolchildren and preschoolers.
Beginning in November, the city’s Department of Public Health will require children who attend preschool or day care centers in Chicago to spend less time in front of television or computer screens — 60 minutes or less — and more time, at least an hour a day, participating in physical activity. At snack or meal time, milk cannot have a fat content higher than 1 percent, unless a child has written consent from a doctor. Only 100 percent juice can be served.
In Chicago, 22 percent of children are overweight before they enter school, more than twice the national average, according to research compiled by the Consortium to Lower Obesity in Chicago Children, a group of organizations and health advocates.
The Department of Public Health first set preschool health standards in 2009, and some preschools and day care centers have already adopted them. Bechara Choucair, the city’s health commissioner, said that the department would begin enforcing the new requirements in November but that it had not yet determined how.
Tracy Moran, a researcher at the Erikson Institute, a graduate school focused on early childhood development and education, said the requirements were important for young children to develop healthy lifestyles to prevent conditions like high cholesterol, Type 2 diabetes and hypertension.
The lack of recess could “certainly stunt any progress made early on,” Ms. Moran said. Read more >>