Legislators compromise on school recess

The legislature is poised to revise a law enacted last year that put new restrictions on school recess, inspiring both complaints and praise in the education arena.  HB45, sponsored by Rep. Bill Dunn, R-Knoxville, was approved unanimously in the House on Thursday and is scheduled for a Senate floor vote Monday evening with Sen. Jim Tracy, R-Shelbyville, a sponsor.

The original version of the bill would have repealed last year’s physical activity requirements, but it’s been amended in a compromise that seems to have broad support. An excerpt from WPLN’s report on recess for kids:

Many educators say that (current) law is too restrictive. For one thing, it sets firm rules on how long recess should be. Kindergartners and first graders have to take three, 15-minute breaks each day. Older elementary students must take two, 20-minute breaks.

And they have to be “non-structured,” meaning teachers can’t lead them in play.

“A lot school systems were just ignoring the law,” says state Rep. Bill Dunn, R-Knoxville, “and that’s never a good position to be in.”

Earlier this year, Dunn proposed repealing the requirement. That would’ve given control back to the districts.

But the state’s recess law has many defenders. Parents have been particularly supportive. State Rep. Roger Kane, who chairs the House’s Education Instruction & Planning Subcommittee, says he’s heard from more than a dozen parents who back mandatory recess.

“They like the fact that we’ve implemented recess back into the school day. It had been relegated to 45 minutes a week, which is totally unacceptable.”

A compromise is now making its way through the Tennessee legislature. Instead of daily recess requirements, schools will be given weekly targets. And they’ll have more flexibility — in what activities are allowed to count and whether teachers can take part.

Kane, R-Knoxville, says he was surprised to hear schools had struggled so much with the issue.

“Who knew recess could be so complicated? It seems just like fun.”

Note: Here’s a legislative staff summary of the amended bill:

Requires all elementary schools to integrate a minimum of 130 minutes of physical activity per week into the instructional school week. Requires all middle and high schools to integrate a minimum of 90 minutes of physical activity per week into the instructional school week. Excludes walking to and from class from the list of activities classified as physical activity. Authorizes local education agencies (LEAs) to integrate more than the mandatory minimum amount of physical activity prescribed under this bill into the instructional school week for elementary, middle, and high school students.

And, for elementary school students, there’s a requirement that the 130 minutes per week include at least 15 minutes of physical activity each day.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *