If the weather forecast holds up, the region’s kids will likely be doing a lot of coloring, playing games and tossing a ball around the gym during their usual recess time this week.
Indoor play replaces outdoor recess at local elementary schools when temperatures plunge. Each school has different criteria — some keep children inside if it’s below freezing; others wait until it’s as cold as 15 degrees — including wind chill — before they break out the board games.
“It’s all based on the temperature, the wind chills and the playground outside,” said Mohonasen Central School District spokeswoman Adrienne Leon. “The principal consults with the nurse” to make a decision each day, but when it’s below freezing — 32 degrees — they start thinking about keeping children inside.
If officials decide it’s OK to go outside, students have to be dressed for winter weather, with boots, coats, hats and mittens, she said. Youngsters who are kept indoors still need to let off some steam and play, though, said Thomas Ciaccio, principal at Fonda-Fultonville Elementary School.
“They’re able to do some things that they’re typically not able to do” during the school day, such as visit educational websites, draw pictures or talk to friends, he said.
At his school, 20 degrees is the typical cutoff point. Any colder than that, including the wind chill, and they stay in and do something fun but productive.
Lack of outdoor recess this time of year does make elementary-schoolers restless, though, Ciaccio said.
“You do see an increase in behaviors that you wouldn’t normally see,” he said. “They’ve got a lot of pent-up energy.”
While some districts leave the decision up to the building principal each day, others, such as the Burnt Hills-Ballston Lake Central School District, have uniform criteria for all of their schools. The district’s written procedure is that elementary students go outdoors every day, weather permitting, said district spokeswoman Christy Multer, but on days when the temperature or wind chill is colder than 15 degrees, children say inside.
They may go to the gym or another classroom and play board games or a more active ball game, she said.
Most schools also keep students off the regular playground in the winter, as it’s covered with snow and ice, but have another outdoor area where children can run around.
Based on those guidelines, many Capital Region children may be staying inside for the rest of the week. The National Weather Service in Albany forecasts Schenectady’s high today at 14 degrees, with the wind chill as low as minus-14. Thursday, the temperature is expected to get to 17 degrees, with a wind chill of minus-14; and Friday’s high may hit 18 degrees.