Weird weather forces recess habits to change

With unusual weather this winter including freezing rain and hardly any snow, some elementary schools around the Kenai Peninsula have had to occasionally adjust their normal recess routines to ensure safety and, at the same time, keep kids active.

Karl Kircher, principal of Mountain View Elementary, said he doesn’t recall such an unusual winter. He said that when the playground area gets slick due to freezing rain, the school is forced to have indoor recess.

“Our number one job is safety,” Kircher said.

With large numbers of students, Kircher said sometimes indoor recess is necessary.

“If I was out here with my own kids – my three boys, – we’d be hooting, hollering, having a good time (sliding on the ice),” Kircher said, “But with 400 kids to monitor the safety of– we are very limited in options.”

Indoor recess is not only caused by icy conditions – other factors, including rain or temperatures 10 below wind-chill, can result in teachers having to have the break inside. Kircher said that when he makes the decision to have indoor recess, it doesn’t always go over well with all of the students.

“(Having indoor recess) results in a lot of unhappy kids,” Kircher said. “There are certain kids that would like to stay inside, but I think we have a pretty hearty population that would much rather be outside.”

When the weather forces students to stay inside, they have a variety of activities of which to choose from. Students can play games, build with blocks and even have air guitar contests. Kircher said that while some kids aren’t happy about having to stay inside when the weather is bad, parents and guardians don’t mind.

“Most parents understand that we have hundreds of kids with a variety of physical abilities,” Kircher said. “Some kids will be out (on the playground) loving it, but there are a lot of kids (that won’t).”

Kate Hamre, a Mountain View kindergarten teacher, said that outdoor recess is preferred to staying indoors and is beneficial.

“It’s just nice that they get some fresh air,” Hamre said.

At Mountain View Elementary, when the weather has allowed students to go outside, normal winter activities such as sledding have rarely been possible. Other popular activities include running, football, soccer and four square. John Pothast, principal of Redoubt Elementary School, said that the playground at his school hasn’t been terribly affected by the adverse weather and recesses have rarely been held indoors.

Pothast said that some of the areas of the playground are slicker than normal, but the school staff makes sure the kids don’t go near those areas. To combat the slick surfaces, Pothast said that the playground gets sanded at least once year. Overall, Pothast said that this year’s playground conditions have been good.

“It’s been so warm that most of the playground is clear,” Pothast said.

He said students at Redoubt haven’t complained too much about the lack of snow this winter.

“They’re just happy to be outside,” Pothast said. “They’re a little bummed about not being able to use (the sledding hill).”

Reach Ian Foley at Ian.foley@peninsulaclarion.com

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