One Charlotte elementary school is experimenting with more recess

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Elementary school is a lot more serious these days than you probably remember from your childhood. Even kindergarten follows a regimented schedule with a heavy emphasis on reading.

One south Charlotte elementary school will be experimenting this year with offering slightly more recess time for its youngest students — and breaking it up across the day.

Instead of one 30-minute chunk of playtime, McAlpine Elementary’s kindergarten, first- and second-grade students will have two 20-minute blocks on the playground.

“They do better with small spurts, no matter what it is,” principal Dina Modine said.


In some ways, McAlpine Elementary is lucky to be able to do this. At 511 students last year, it’s one of the smallest neighborhood schools in the district. It’s also one of the few Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools to be under student capacity.

At many of Charlotte’s increasingly overcrowded schools, the administration has to get creative about how to get all of their kids outdoor time, rotating them through bus lots, courtyards and ballfields in a carefully choreographed dance.

And the change at McAlpine will present its own logistical problems. The additional transitions could eat into instruction time. Modine said they would be scheduling the recess periods for “natural gaps” in the day when kids are getting antsy — like in the middle of 2.5 hours of reading time.

More schools, particularly some in Texas, have been trying similar tactics. The experiment at McAlpine is also modeled after some lessons in “Boys Adrift,” the well-regarded book on why boys are underperforming in school.

Modine said teachers at McAlpine are excited about giving it a try.

School starts back Monday.

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Andrew Dunn
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