A Colorado school district openly admits many of its schools have been struggling.
So, the Adams 14 School District is trying to shape up by cutting down on recess at elementary schools to focus more on learning.
The district, parents and education experts agree physical activity helps kids learn. But Adams 14 cut back on recess this school year.
"It's more like a prison for kids now," parent Crystal Tafoya said.
Starting at the beginning of this school year, recess happens once a day now for seven elementary schools, and is a part of the kids’ half-hour lunch break.
"They're lucky if they have seven to 10 minutes to eat and about seven to 10 minutes to play," Tafoya said.
Tafoya said that's not enough for her 8-year-old son.
"I think it's breaking half these kids down more," she said.
"We aren't a cookie-cutter when it comes to providing physical activity for our students,” district spokesperson Janelle Asmus aid. “We used to have a set time in the morning, noon and afternoon for physical activity. Now what we are saying is we need to provide the same number of minutes of physical activity for students but is there a better way we can do it and still incorporate a boost for student learning? And the answer is yes.”
Adams 14 has been placed on a turn-around plan by the state because markers like test scores and graduation rates are suffering. Asmus says the school district was on a five-year-long accountability clock to make improvements under the state's eye but that time has passed. That's when the state said make dramatic changes to make improvements. The state approved the district's plan to add in more physical activity during the day to boost learning and cut back on recess.
"In the classroom, in P.E. classes with field trips," said Asmus listing off some examples.
The idea is kids are walking during field trips or teachers can incorporate push-ups and planks into science lessons and still meet the state standard of 600 minutes of physical activity for each kid every month with the changes.
"We hope the research bares out in our own district to show that when you increase engaged student learning that it's going to result in increased performance," Asmus said.
Dr. Nhu Nguyen, an associate professor in K-12 physical education at Metro State University, said research has shown a link between physical activity to better test scores. But that's it important for that physical activity to be structured, supervised and run by people who are properly trained.
Dr. Nguyen said especially for elementary school kids, it's natural for them to move. It's how they explore and express themselves. And many times learn to socialize during recess.
The district says it has preliminary data from two schools showing a decline in out of school suspensions and office referrals under the new plan.
But the year's only half over so the results are incomplete. The district says they'll be studying the data as well as impacts on the schools closely before making decisions about next year.
There is a school board open house on Jan. 25 at the Adams City High School cafeteria where parents can voice their opinion.
And another parent forum is being planned for Feb. 15.