While I was on the way to drop off my neighbor's boy at school today, I realized that we were a bit earlier than usual. So I turned to him and said, "Oh, we're kind of early! That's ok, because you'll just have more time to play on the playground before school starts."
him: "We don't play on the playground. I'm not in kindergarten. Only the kindergarten plays on the playground."
me: "What do you mean?? The big kids don't get to play? Why not?"
him: "Only the kindergartners are allowed on the playground. We just have to walk around in a circle."
me: "Seriously? Don't you want to play?"
him: "It's ok. I don't really like the playground."
me: "We go to the park all the time! I know you like to play on playgrounds! Seriously? That's just weird."
By this time we had arrived in the front of the school and I could see with my own eyes what he was talking about. In the foreground were the kindergartners playing and having fun. In the background were all the other students, carrying their backpacks and walking in line in a huge circle around the playground while a couple adults stood sentry.
I was shocked! I wanted to jump out of the car and go shake the kids and say, "What are you doing?? Don't you know that you're kids?? Don't you know that you should be playing??" And then I want to march to the principles office and demand an explanation.
Is this normal? I remember when I was in elementary school that the time before the bell rang for the day was considered first recess. And I wished sometimes that Mom would drop me off earlier so I could have more time to play with my friends before class started.
So, is this normal for elementary schools now? Has this always been the norm? (Was my old school weird?) Is this just another sign of public schools going down the toilet?
Update: I talked to the school today. Read the update here.