MANATEE — After lunch each day, teacher Kori Hansing knows exactly what’s going to happen to her kindergarten class at Orange Ridge-Bullock Elementary.
“I can see it in their eyes,” the 29-year-old teacher said. “At about 12:45, their bellies are full, their brains are exhausted and their bodies want a nap.”
So each of them, on their respective floor mats, lies down for 30 minutes.
There is no Manatee County school district policy requiring the district’s 3,300 kindergartners to take naps. Some kindergarten teachers provide naps, and some don’t. Principals make that choice on a school-by-school basis.
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Some educators and parents are questioning that, saying children that young need a rest. Others argue they’re in school to learn, not sleep.
Matthew Pendleton has children who attend kindergarten at Braden River. His granddaughter, age 5, copes well with the long day without a nap.
But his son, also 5, gets cranky and in turn has behavioral issues, he said.
“He’s getting adequate sleep at home, so I really hope the school readdresses the issue at least for the start of the school year, to allow them to have a nap during the day to recharge their batteries.” Pendleton said.
Sarasota County School District’s policy is the same as Manatee’s, said spokesman Scott Ferguson.
But the Pinellas County School District requires 20 to 40 minutes of rest time daily during the first half of the school year. Later in the year, they spend that time doing other activities, including reading, said Andrea Zahn, district director of communications.
Orange Ridge Principal Doug DuPouy allows nap time during a portion of the school year.
Hansing, who has taught for five years at Orange Ridge, said as the year progresses, she’ll wean them off naps.
As of this week, her students are napping for about 15 minutes a day.
“By the end of the school year, it will be them putting their heads down on desk and a five-minute quiet time,” she said.
Kindergartners, like the rest of their elementary cohorts, spend all day in school.
Kindergarten is a readiness program for first grade, Hansing said.
“So the first 90 days of school, we cater to the young child and allow them to transition their bodies into a full school day,” she said. “By second quarter, we expect them to go without napping to be ready for first grade.”
Like Hansing, most teachers who offer a nap time provide it at the beginning of the year, then wean students off it, said Lynette Edwards, the district’s assistant superintendent of curriculum. That’s to allow more classroom time to ensure the students develop the skills they need to move to the next grade.
“There has been an increase in the expectation for the kindergarten class to be much more academic than what the perception of what it was 10 years ago,” said Joe Stokes, the district’s director of elementary schools. “There is definitely more pressure on kindergarten teachers to have kids more into reading and math.”
Local pediatrician Dr. Vanessa Victor-Linkenhoker said kindergarten-age children need 10 hours of sleep at night. She recommends 20- to 30-minute naps, or a least a rest time.
While it is true that children need rest, sleep should be the responsibility of the parents and not the school, Stokes contends.
“Kindergartners are in school for almost seven hours each day,” he said. “So if we would think everything in the physiology of a student would revolve around those hours, that wouldn’t be honest because they spend more time at home than school. That’s where they are fed, nurtured, rested.”
At Peace Lutheran School on 30th Avenue West, there is no set nap time. But kindergarten teacher Suzanne Hough allows for them as needed.
“If the child is tired and falls asleep, we let them sleep for about 20 to 30 minutes,” said Principal Nathan Nolte. “What we find is those who get proper sleep usually do better.”
Community Christian School on 18th Street East sets aside an hour of nap time.
“They aren’t required to sleep but stay still and lay quietly,” said Pastor Charles Sartor.
At Orange Ridge, Hansing said all the kindergarten teachers offer naps during the first portion of the year.
“Personally, I feel the children learn better on a fresher mind,” she said.
Nap time is not provided at Braden River Elementary School. They have a quiet story time, though.
“During that time, if a teacher sees a student’s head bobbing or a child asks for permission to rest during that time, that is occasionally acceptable,” said Principal Randy Mungillo. ”If a child falls asleep and needs to rest, there are not consequences.”
Kindergarten students have to meet state rules requiring 90 minutes of reading daily and 150 minutes of physical education weekly.
“It’s a point of, I have 6 1/2 hours a day to try and fit in about eight hours worth of curriculum,” Mungillo said. “It’s not a matter of making a good choice over a bad choice, it’s a matter of making a choice over two things that are good. I don’t want to tell people how to parent, but young children need to be in bed at a reasonable time in order to recharge their bodies.”