The goal of protecting a recess-like outdoor break for middle school students — but giving principals flexibility to pull students inside for a talk if there’s good reason — will be accomplished through an administrative regulations, not a Board of Education policy.

Board members agreed to an administrative regulation proposed by Interim Superintendent Dr. JeanAnn Paddyfote at their Oct. 28 meeting.

A proposed policy had appeared on the board’s Sept. 23 agenda, reflecting protections given in state law to recess for elementary age students — essentially forbidding school authorities from taking away a child’s recess as a disciplinary step. But the Ridgefield board’s policy would have extended the protections to middle schoolers’ recess.

The policy proposal drew some concerns from the two middle school principals.

Among the concerns was language that said:

“In an effort to promote physical exercise and undirected play, the Board prohibits school employees from disciplining K-8 students by preventing them from participating in the full 20 minutes of time devoted to physical exercise or additional time devoted to undirected play during the regular school day, except in instances where the student’s behavior poses a health and/or safety concern or as determined by a student’s Section 504 or planning and placement team.”

The middle school principals said they shared the board’s concern that recess not be taken away as a punishment, but sometimes needed to talk to a student about something in a timely way, and found recess was an appropriate time to do it. They wanted the flexibility to be able to pull a student from recess into the office for a discussion now and then, when it seemed necessary.

Revised regulation

Dr. Paddyfote put together an administrative regulation that allowed the middle school administrators some flexibility.

“Physical Activity and Undirected Play for Middle School Students,” it was titled.

The regulation said, “Middle school students in grades 6-8 benefit from physical activity and undirected play during the school day. Ridgefield Middle Schools provide a daily opportunity for students to participate in physical activity and undirected play for 20 minutes.

“On rare occasions, the Principal or other school administrators may use the recess period to meet with a student to address an important matter or concern.

“This use of the recess period would be considered when one of the following circumstances apply:

● “The matter involves a safety concern.

● “The concern requires timely or immediate attention.

● “A parent has requested a matter be addressed during recess rather than after school or during an academic period.”

The board liked it.

“This is great,” said board member Kathleen Holz. “I’d love it so much to go in. And thank you for writing it.”

Board member Fran Walton noted that the state’s protections for recess only went only up to fifth grade — so allowing more flexibility at the middle schools wouldn’t conflict with the state’s policies.

“The legal requirement is K-5. We chose to make it K-8,” Walton said.

The consensus was to use Dr. Paddyfote’s language, but not to adopt it as a formal board policy.

“It’s not going to be a policy. It’s going to be a regulation,” Dr. Paddyfote later told The Press.

The idea, she said, is to make sure everyone “would have access to the same set of rules and procedures.”

While it won’t be a board policy, the language for the regulation will be made available to the public.

“The student handbook and district operating procedures,” Paddyfote said. “It would be memorialized in two places....

“It’s always good to have a good set of standards,” she said.

Although it’s now part of the district’s rules, the regulation probably won’t go into the handbook until next year because this year’s handbooks are already produced, Paddyfote said.

“I’d hope this would go in as soon as possible,” board member Holz said.

Recess is required only for elementary students by the state, and Paddyfote told The Press she throught board members’ goal was to preserve Ridgefield’s extension of recess to middle schoolers.

“I think the board’s concern is, if there’s turnover, all of sudden the need for recess is going to be lost,” she said.