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When kids go back to school, recess should be a priority, experts say

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CORVALLIS, Ore. -- Right now children are learning from home because of the coronavirus pandemic.

Oregon State University researchers recently surveyed nearly 500 parents.

The survey showed that children haven't been as active as usual during the stay-at-home order. Experts say when those kids get back to school, recess should be a priority for their health.

As K-12 schools look ahead to students returning, researchers are also advocating the need for an upkeep for sanitation and safety precautions to prevent the spread of COVID-19 inside and out of the classroom.

William Massey, one of the researchers at OSU, has joined colleagues around the world to represent the Global Recess Alliance. The group has published articles and papers on the policies of recess and its benefits.

"Physical activity is important for kids for their overall development. We know that it's important not only for their physical health but also for their social and emotional well-being. It helps prime their brain for learning. And so, as we consider kids who have been cooped up - they've been isolated. Certainly a lot of struggle going on there," said Massey, an assistant professor with the College of Public Health and Human Sciences.

But while being at home, Massey says educators must be flexible in their expectations of student behavior. Especially considering that some students may have been isolated in abusive or unsafe households, and could return to school with trauma and anxiety.

"There's probably a lot of concerns across the board in schools. So we know that educators and policy-makers are doing everything they can to try to adjust in real time. There's a lot of different plans going around, in terms of staggering schedules, possible blended learning - where some of it is in person and some of it is distant," said Massey.

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And again, along with proper sanitation, he says data suggests that being outdoors is much less risky than being indoors at school.

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