When Parents Prevail on Policy
El Paso Independent School District
El Paso, TX
The Health, Wellness and P.E. Department of The El Paso Independent School District, led by John Adams, has made great strides improving physical activity and recess opportunities for students. Through work within their School Health Advisory Council (SHAC), parents were able to approve a recess policy that would increase recess by 5 minutes for a total of 20 minutes daily for students in grades K-5. This policy also addressed not punishing students by taking away recess and added language to prevent administration from combining PE and recess.
The parent involvement in the district SHAC has increased since the start of the project with the assistance of Action for Healthy Kids (AFHK) and the Institute for Healthy Living. In the beginning of the project, parent involvement within their SHAC was minimal, and they lacked a parent chair. As a group, TX AFHK, the Institute for Healthy Living, and the SHAC met and discussed possible solutions for increasing parent involvement.
Some of the solutions were to hold meetings in a central location, since El Paso ISD is widespread and covers many parts of the city; to start meetings at a time that would be convenient for parents; and to provide a light meal with childcare for the children that accompanied the parents. Not only was childcare provided, but a PE coach from the campus provided equipment and activities promoting physical activity for the kids during their time there.
The next question to answer was how to promote the SHAC meetings to inform parents and convey information about the role they play in the committee? It was decided that SHAC members should speak at PTA meetings to encourage involvement and relay the importance of having a strong parent-led SHAC. Another idea was for SHAC members to invite parents to attend wellness team meetings alongside them. Once these plans were implemented, 30 new parents attended the next meeting, including a new parent co-chair.
Parents began to voice their concerns to address issues such as the time given to students to eat, the time given to students for recess, the variety of food being served during lunch, and concerns about open vs. closed high school campuses. The discussion resulted in many recommendations and a policy giving students in grades K-5 20 minutes to eat and 20 minutes for recess. Parents approved the draft recess policy with hopes of being approved by the school board in March. Parent involvement can make change in El Paso by taking the necessary steps to create a healthier environment for their children!