top of page

New Educational System Schools and Recess

July 13: HISD released the NES/NESA master schedule for elementary school which included a reduction in recess. 30 minutes of recess has been an HISD guideline since 2012

July 28: we sent a letter to Superintendent Miles and the board of managers voicing our concerns

July 31: FPH issued a call-to-action to its members with a form letter requesting advocacy for a restoration of the long standing recess guidelines for NES and NESA students 

August 15: FPH met with HISD Deputy Chief of Staff to discuss recess at NES/NESA schools 

August 18: A follow-up letter was sent by FPH to Superintendent Miles and the BOM continuing to request a restoration of recess

August 22: Superintendent Miles restores recess for NES/NESA students before the start of the school year


This was the first time that Superintendent Miles changed a policy in response to public pressure

image (1)_edited.jpg
FPH HC.png

This summer, Houston I.S.D. was taken over by the Texas Education Agency (TEA). The State Education Commissioner Mike Morath appointed a new superintendent, Mike Miles and a board of managers to replace the locally elected Houston I.S.D. board of trustees. Immediately, Superintendent Miles’ established a new category called "New Educational System" (NES) campuses which were restructured to represent his vision for the district at large. Twenty-nine additional schools opted in to the designation, called "New Education System Aligned" (NES-A). The master schedule for over 50 NES and NES-A Elementary Schools eliminated recess in 5th grade.


HISD’s own policies and guidelines state that recess is an essential component of the total educational experience for elementary aged children with at least 30 minutes required for PK-5th graders. According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, recess is “a necessary break in the day for optimizing a child’s social, emotional, physical, and cognitive development.” There is no other time in the school day that has this range of benefits. With the change, 5th graders attending Houston’s NES and NES-A schools had 150 minutes fewer a week than children at non-NES schools, a disparity that was unacceptable.


In response, Free Play Houston members attended community meetings led by new Houston I.S.D. Superintendent and board members to stay informed. At these meetings we learned that 3rd and 4th graders at NES schools would have a 30 minute block of recess cut into two 15 minute. Time walking to and from the playground would be taken from the 15 minutes, making recess for these grades significantly shorter.


Free Play Houston was alarmed by these changes and created a call-to-action plan. We asked our members to email and call the board of managers and the response was generous.  The public pressure, along with press coverage led to changes in the schedule and restored recess for children at NES NES-A schools, a rare HISD win for the Houston community during this time of district upheaval. 

It IS possible to make a difference when we stand up for children as a community.  All HISD children are our children. All children have the right to play.

A part of our call to action included children responding to the change. We asked them what they thought about the fact that some kids would have recess and others would not, depending on which school they attended.


No, recess? No no no! That's bad!

Grayson, HISD 5th grader


 No recess? Literally, I would tell them that if you keep a person - a kid, a child - in a room all day, they're not gonna be happy about it. They're gonna tell their mom that they don't want to go to school anymore.

Jett, HISD 5th Grader

If I lost recess I would feel sad and mad because recess is actually my favorite part of the day. You get to run around and scream. We get to play with friends, do what we want. Right before recess some kids start not listening and getting bored. Not doing their work. Once one kid even fell asleep. Then we go outside and run and can be with friends, as loud as we want. After recess I feel refreshed.

Eleanor, 5th grader HISD


The thought of losing recess makes me sad. I don’t want to lose that time to play with my friends. Recess is a break from all the work, where I can talk to and play with my friends. At recess we play soccer, tag, and four square. I think Dyad sounds dumb because I can’t talk to my friends and I can ride a real bike at home.

-Justice, 5th grade, HISD


I play Gaga ball with friends and look for frogs in the garden during recess. I would feel unhealthy and overwhelmed without recess.It’s scientifically proven that you need recess at school to help with keeping your body awake.

Hale, age 11

bottom of page