JACKSONVILLE, Fla. — Recess time could be in jeopardy under a new bill advancing through the Florida Senate.
Since 2017 state law has required k-5 students be allotted 20 consecutive minutes of unstructured free play each school day.
But a small provision included in larger effort to reduce regulations on public schools would delete the words “consecutive” and “unstructured” from that statute.
Bill sponsor State Senator Corey Simon (R-Tallahassee) said his intent is to put the issue of recess back in the hands of local communities.
“That is the crux of a lot of what we’re doing through this deregulation process, is we’re returning it back home,” said Simon.
Under Simon’s bill, students would still have to get a total of 100 minutes of free play throughout the week, but groups like the Florida PTA worry the change would potentially result in scenarios like brief five-minute breaks spread out throughout the day.
Dr. Nancy Lawther with the Florida PTA explained those were the exact issues that led to the implementation of the current language in the first place.
“You need the 20 minutes consecutively in order for children actually to have the full potential to develop their own games, develop their own rules, all of the things that make them better as functioning adults,” said Lawther.
Dr. Danielle Thomas with the Florida School Boards Association told Action News Jax school districts didn’t ask for the recess change.
Thomas said she believes the intent behind the move is to help provide school districts with flexibility in certain cases.
“There are days like early release days and such where it’s very difficult to get those 20 minutes in,” said Thomas.
Andrew Spar, President of the Florida Education Association, said the union isn’t directly taking a position on the recess restructuring language, but in general, he noted FEA supports local control.
“Personally, I think it should be local school districts that have those policies in place. I support the idea that kids should have recess every day. I think we should have the funding in place to ensure there can be recess and that it doesn’t actually take away from instructional time,” said Spar.
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Senator Simon did encourage local school districts to maintain 20 consecutive minutes of recess every day as best as they can, should the change become law.
The bill still has a long way to go before crossing the finish line.