More Recess in PWC: One mom’s mission to bring more physical activity to public schools

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By Ashleigh Balsamo | Photo Provided by Barbara Larrimore

According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, children need 60 minutes of physical activity per day. On most days, however, students of Prince William County Public Schools aren’t getting nearly enough.

For mom of three Barbara Larrimore, this is a huge problem, or as she puts it, “a social injustice.” Her five- and eight-year-old children, who attend Lake Ridge Elementary school, only get around 15 minutes of physical activity during their six hours at school, a number she feels is “staggeringly low.”

That’s why Larrimore has organized a pep rally for more recess, to be held at the school board meeting on January 18 at the Kelly Center. The rally, which is at 7:00 p. m., will have numerous speakers ranging from social workers, political candidates, PTA presidents and educators from Society of Health and Physical Educators (SHAPE America) to help stress the importance of physical activity during school.

“I feel that Prince William County is behind the trend of being a child-focused educational system,” she said. “Prince William is still holding onto the old, SOL-based testing culture that leads to obesity, ADHA diagnoses, anxiety, sensory issues — the list goes on.”

Larrimore has previously met with Lake Ridge’s principal, vice principal and Todd Erickson, the county’s associate superintendent, in order to establish an after-lunch program for children who have finished eating to be able to head outside and get more physical exercise during the day. But she knows that a program such as that would be hard to staff and ultimately wouldn’t be enough.

“I feel passionate about this because this affects my children,” she said. “I truly feel that the basic needs of movement and play of small children are not being addressed. If we are able to address children’s needs first, then learning would happen more readily [and]behavior issues would diminish.”

After calling the top-10 rated schools in Virginia, Larrimore learned that each one had better recess, P.E. and action-based learning policies, which she hopes to bring to Prince William County, which is ranked 26th.

Larrimore has started the Facebook page “More Recess in PWC” to share ideas and keep others posted on related events going on in the county. She hopes that others will come to the pep rally to show the school board that this isn’t just “one mom’s crusade,” but that there are many people in the county who care and want to get involved.

“If enough people say the same thing, then the school board will have to listen,” she said. “The school board has had a contentious opening to their term, and this is their chance to make real policy changes that will make the lives of the children and families of Prince William County better.”

Ashleigh Balsamo is Prince William Living‘s Digital Media Coordinator.


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