AIKEN - At half past noon every day, children at the Minnie Palmore House unfold mats and snuggle under soft blankets to catch a few winks before jumping into afternoon activities.
"They wake up early in the morning, and we push them hard," said Pam Hall, a teacher at the private school in Graniteville for children from age 2 through second grade. "Their attention span is not as developed as the older kids, and it's very important that they rest their mind."
For pre-kindergarten children, the age-old afternoon nap is still part of the daily routine at Minnie Palmore House. But snoozing at school for kindergarteners ages 5 and up has become history at this school. The demise of the nap is part of a national trend in schools struggling to find more instructional time.
Edgefield County schools cut nap time for kindergarten children about five years ago. It has also been phased out in Aiken County schools over the past few years, educators said.
"We want to engage students in as much learning as we possibly can," said Frank Roberson, the associate superintendent of instruction for Aiken County schools. "There is no punishment for students who do fall asleep. But we're trying to get students ready for first grade."
Instead of sleeping, children now have quiet time during the day when teachers read aloud to the class or children work on crafts or other activities by themselves. More stringent state standards that grade pupils in the areas of language development, counting and social skills, mean teachers need extra time once reserved for naps, said William Sandifer, the superintendent of Barnwell County District 19 schools.
Increased teaching demands have diminished nap time, recess and time to study art and music at schools throughout the Palmetto State, said Jim Foster, the spokesman for the South Carolina Department of Education.
"It's not necessarily a desirable result of accountability, but it is an entirely predictable consequence," Mr. Foster said. "Schools will spend less time on the things that they don't have to do and more time on the things that they do have to do by law."
But the nap isn't extinct yet, not in Columbia County, anyway. There, school officials say children are allowed a half-hour nap each day.
"I don't know if there's a policy. I just know we do it, because they're there all day long. They're still little kids," said Bob Boyd, the principal at Grovetown Elementary.
Staff writers Donnie Fetter and Greg Rickabaugh contributed to this article.
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