MIDDLETOWN — Acting Superintendent Alberto Vazquez-Matos said yesterday that he intends to have 25-minute breaks for recess reinstated in the schools after the students return from April break.
Vazquez-Matos said at a Board of Education meeting on Tuesday that he is working with Middletown Federation of Teachers, the district’s teacher’s union, to modify the Memorandum of Agreement for the 2021-22 school year. The memorandum states that teachers must preside over “two student movement breaks/mask breaks.”
“We … are having almost daily conversations with the unions around renegotiating the current MOU that’s in place,” said Vazquez-Matos.
The district changed its schedule from one 25-minute recess period to two 10-minute “mask breaks” when it returned to in-person learning in the spring of 2021. Former superintendent Michael Conner said in a September meeting of the Board of Education that the reason for the change to recess was to mitigate the spread of COVID.
Parents who pushed back against the change said that the two 10-minute breaks do not address students’ social and emotional needs, and don’t give the students enough opportunity to get their energy out. In September, over 2,000 parents signed a petition asking the district to shift back to the 25-minute recess.
Vazquez-Matos said that while the number of COVID cases had prevented them from making the transition earlier, the district was now in a good place with COVID numbers and was able to make the change.
Vazquez-Matos said that the changes would potentially disrupt schedules for lunch and “specials” like art and music, and student service schedules. He said that waiting until after the April Break — the week of April 11 through April 15 — would give the principals the time to adjust their schedules and share them with the teachers.
Board member Dina Ford said that she had heard concerns that some of the schools, like Farm Hill, would have difficulty changing their schedules at this point in the year. Vazquez-Matos said that each school would have to evaluate its own schedules and the logistics of the building, and he said the district would work with the local leaders of the school buildings.
However, he said, the goal is to have the consecutive recess period reinstated — which, he said, “is what the community has been asking for.”