What temperature is too cold for outdoor recess? Parents respond

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DARDENNE PRAIRIE, Mo. — An elementary school in the Wentzville School District reminded parents on Monday that they will allow students to go outside to play for recess as long as the feels-like temperature is 15 degrees. Some parents claimed that is too cold.

Crossroads Elementary School sent a letter to families Monday that said, in part: “The colder weather is upon us, please remember to send your children to school ready to go outside for recess. We do go outside for recess as long as the feels-like temperature is above 15 degrees. So, please send the kids to school ready to head outside.”

Heather Scherffius said when she opened the letter, she was shocked and called the school to make sure the email was correct.

“I’m appalled by it,” she said. “I thought it was a mistype because I was like there is no way that is real.”

Scherffius said she is now reconsidering putting her student in in-person learning in January if the cut-off remains at 15 degrees.

“Some of these kids don’t have hats and gloves every single day or they lose them, I mean they’re elementary kids.”

FOX 2 asked other parents on Facebook, “What temperature is too cold for outdoor recess?” See some of their responses below:

In a statement, the Wentzville School District said:

“In the WSD, our practice is to hold outdoor recess when the temperature is above 15°F (windchill or actual). Our buildings send out reminders to families about the weather, and our students enjoy some much-needed fresh air. Our school buildings are able to use their discretion to have recess indoors if they feel it would be more appropriate on any given day. This discretion is based on the size of our district; we could have different weather on two sides of the district.

Students without coats are not forced to go outside. Our nurses often have extra coats on hand for students, and each year our District partners with the Wentzville Fire Protection District for Operation Warm. This year, we supplied nearly 300 brand-new coats to elementary students identified by school district counselors. Over the past nine years, the WFPD has supplied almost 5,000 coats for WSD students through Operation Warm.”

Thresholds for other St. Louis area school districts:

  • Affton School District: 25 degrees
  • Rockwood School District: 20 degrees
  • Parkway School District: Follows Missouri Department of Elementary and Secondary Education, which has a lowest feels-like temperature of 13 degrees, but discretion is left up to the principal of each school in the district
  • Francis Howell School District:
    • 32 degrees and above, recess is held without a time limit or restrictions
    • 20 degrees and above, outdoor activity limited to 20 minutes
    • 15-20 degrees temperature or windchill, outdoor activity limited to 10 minutes
    • Under 15 degrees temperature or windchill, activities are indoors

According to DESE’s table, it is comfortable for outdoor play at the lowest feels-like temperature of 32 degrees, and outdoor play is cautioned between 13 and 30 windchills.

Chart courtesy of DESE

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