Open Gym Drives Attendance

High Energy and Big Success: Carter-Lawrence Elementary Sees Attendance Improve with Morning Open Gym
Posted on 10/05/2023
student with hula hoop

Good attendance in school plays a significant role in a student's academic success, personal development, and life in general. Regular attendance teaches students important life skills such as responsibility, time management, and commitment.

It helps students understand that showing up on time and fulfilling obligations are critical aspects of being a responsible and reliable individual. open gym at Carter-Lawrence

MNPS understands the importance of getting students to school on time and in the building each school day. Keeping up with schoolwork and attending school regularly allows students to stay on track and sustain a smooth transition through the school curriculum.

Some schools have gone above and beyond to create opportunities for children to be successful in both of those areas. 

Carter-Lawrence Engineering Magnet Elementary School is one of many MNPS schools that have taken the initiative to implement programs and strategies to ensure students are not only in school each day but also on time and prepared for class each morning.

Executive Principal Dr. Sherleta Sanders said after analyzing her school’s attendance data during the 2022-23 school year, she met with her attendance team to brainstorm ideas that could further encourage students to not only get to school on time but also get to school every day. The team included the school counselor, Katundra Maddox; the attendance secretary, Ms. Davis, and Aleathea Harris-Little, the dean of instruction.

Understanding that their students enjoyed playing, they agreed to open school 15 minutes early for play time, now known as open gym. Physical education coach Stephen Butzer and advocacy coach Damon Hayes agreed to oversee the program.

“Open gym was an instant hit,” Sanders said. “We saw a decrease in the amount of tardies within a month of open gym.”

Benefits for Students, Parents, and Staff

Thanks to Butzer and Hayes, the program has since grown to include a full 30 minutes of playtime and serves more than 50 students some days. Before students head to the gym to enjoy various structured play stations, they can have breakfast in the cafeteria beginning at 7:15 a.m. students at Carter-Lawrence gym


“This is a way of letting students get energy out before they are expected to sit quietly in class,” Butzer said.

While Hayes assists with overseeing the program, he is also an active participant in the various stations, including competing with the students in jump rope. Hayes emphasized that since the open gym program began, it has been beneficial not only for students but for parents and school staff as well.

Parents can drop off their students early, ensuring students are present and on time. As a result, behavioral issues have decreased at the school, and the students are having fun in the mornings.

Attendance matters in MNPS. When students miss school, they miss valuable instructional time, which can result in gaps in their knowledge and skills. Attending school regularly can mean the difference between high academic success and struggling to learn fundamental skills. Consistent attendance enables students to engage in classroom activities, ask questions when necessary, and participate in classroom discussions, which can all contribute to better academic performance.

Carter-Lawrence is going above and beyond to ensure all-around student success, and it begins with attendance. 

student with hula hoop

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