New Florida bills would mandate school recess

By Troy Kinsey, Capitol Reporter
Last Updated: Monday, December 28, 2015

As public schools adjust daily schedules to better prepare students for Florida's slate of rigorous assessment exams, the time-honored tradition of recess is increasingly falling by the wayside.

That’s a trend that would be reversed under bipartisan legislation to make recess mandatory in elementary school.

Under the bills, filed for consideration during Florida's 2016 legislative session, elementary schools would be required to give students at least 20 minutes of recess each day. Child development experts say such a break could serve to renew a student's focus after periods of classroom instruction.

"You're doing social growth, emotional growth and physical growth while you're outside," said Kristen Munson, a preschool teacher. "They're learning. They're not just playing and moving their bodies, but they're learning how to talk to friends, move with friends, share with friends. They're getting a lot of good, important basics in just growing up."

Despite its power to renew body and mind, recess has been scrapped at some Florida elementary schools in favor of expanded test preparation sessions. While administrators behind the decisions say they were offered little choice thanks to the state's increasing emphasis on the high-stakes assessments, supporters of the new legislation argue longer periods of instruction may be counterproductive.

"Academics are important, but not as important for the growing child to be able to move their body and get out there and just exercise," Munson said.