ROCHESTER, N.Y. (WROC) — New findings from a report conducted by the Healthi Kids Coalition shows parents and families within the Rochester City School District (RCSD) have grown increasingly concerned about the impact the pandemic has left on their children’s mental health and social wellbeing.

PlayROCs Project Coordinator from Healthi Kids, Beatriz LeBron explains play is fundamental to children’s overall health and well-being but, unfortunately, not all RCSD students have equitable access to play as part of their education.

“What was discovered was that the Rochester City School District, which houses the majority of our kids who live in the city of Rochester, did not have equitable play opportunities from school to school. That really bubbled up from parent and student voices. That’s why the study was done, and it was done through focus groups, panels of experts, panels of parents and students, all basically saying that play and learning should go hand-in-hand,” LeBron said.

LeBron said this report works to improve policies, practices, and environments that support playful learning in the Rochester City School District. She said it’s also important to note that play can go hand-in-hand for all ages.

“We go beyond zero to eight, which is a lot of the focus that happens around playful learning in the mental health space, but even teenagers say ‘Hey, we’re not often thought about in the playful environment.’ So, what does play look like in a high school versus an elementary school? And so a cumulation of a year of focus groups and surveys in Spanish and English with parent and student panels, and workshops to get to these final results,” LeBron said.

The report was conducted by the Healthi Kids Coalition, parent and youth leaders, and several organizational partners including The Strong National Museum of Play.

Tyana Velazquez-Smith with the museum explains making sure play is equitable for all children is why the Strong supports this work.

 “It’s really important that we are in community conversations and ensuring that all children have access to play experiences. It is a human right. And so partnering together with Healthi Kids and PlayROCs, we help to close any play gaps that might exist,” Velazquez-Smith said.

With these new findings, LeBron explains the next step forward is “socializing the report.”

“For us, that socialization means that we’re intentionally educating stakeholders, elected officials and partners at the district to understand what the findings mean, and how to implement some of the findings and recommendations for implementation at every level. What students can be doing to advocate, what parents can be doing as an advocate, and what educators could be doing, but also what the district needs to do to provide those opportunities and resources for all of the stakeholder,” LeBron said. “Our next step beyond socialization is figuring out what that plan of action implementation looks like. And one of the areas of focus for us to kick off ‘Rescue Recess.’”

LeBron explains ‘Rescue Recess’ will work to ensure that at that every student has access to recess on a daily basis.

To read the full report, click here.