Winter recess rules cause a commotion

BISMARCK, ND. - When temperatures drop below zero it presents a problem for elementary schools. How cold is too cold for outdoor recess?

The playground is empty now but earlier today kids were enjoying their time outside.

However, some parents have expressed concerns about the winter recess rules, and think the temperature cut off is too low.

A post on a Bismarck Facebook page about BPS' outdoor recess rules raised more than one hundred comments.

It has since been deleted.

Most kids want to play outside no matter what the temperature is. At home, the parents decide. But for recess, the school district has the final decision.

Bismarck Public school's recess rule states students will go outside unless the wind chill is 15 below zero.

“She never complains about it when she comes home. She never says she was really cold outside today. So it just seems to be like what she needs to get outside during the day and go play around,” said Retha Mattern, a BPS parent.

This regulation has been in effect for thirty years.

“If people have questions about it and really want to talk about it the best place to start is with the classroom teacher, with the building principal. And certainly adults would have a chance to vent their concerns,” said BPS Superintendent Tamara Uselman.

Is it safe for students to play outside in such cold conditions?

“If they're bundled up in layers, and the wind isn't terribly high, there shouldn't be too many problems but if there's unexposed skin especially with those wind chills below twenty degrees below zero it can take sometimes up to ten minutes for that unexposed skin to develop frostbite,” said meteorologist Henry Blakes.

School officials say changing the cutoff temperature now would impact much more than just recess.

“Parents wouldn't be able to drop off their kids in the morning, and let their kids play out on the playground in the morning until school started. They would have to wait until class actually began. That would be a hardship for parents but it would also be a further hardship for kids because buy and large our kids love recess,” said Uselman.

Some parents agree. Winter recess has more pros than cons.

“If the cut off wasn't so low, it seems like they would be stuck inside all winter long and I can't see how that's any good for the teachers and kids need to play and need to get outside and get their energy out so that they can focus in the classroom,” said Mattern.

Despite parent concerns, the kids are happy that recess will roll on.

Mandan public school's rule is that the kids will go outside unless the temperature or wind chill is 10 or more below.