State Politics

School recess bill still alive in Florida House... but changes coming

Kindergartners make plea for recess

Kindergartners at Miami Gardens Elementary School seem to have all the facts down about the benefits recess can bring. These energetic 5 and 6-year-olds feel the need for some sunshine and fresh air.
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Kindergartners at Miami Gardens Elementary School seem to have all the facts down about the benefits recess can bring. These energetic 5 and 6-year-olds feel the need for some sunshine and fresh air.

Next week would have been make-or-break for this year’s efforts by the Florida Legislature to implement mandatory daily recess in public elementary schools.

While the Senate bill (SB 78) sailed through committees and awaits a floor vote, the House bill had yet to move — and next week is the last week policy subcommittees are expected to meet.

But “recess moms” are in luck.

Clearwater Republican Rep. Chris Latvala, R-Clearwater, has scheduled the recess bill (HB 67) to be heard Tuesday morning in his House Pre-K-12 Innovation Subcommittee.

However, Latvala’s committee is proposing some hefty changes, which might not leave all “recess moms” happy.

The proposal originally just called for requiring “at least 100 minutes of supervised, safe, and unstructured free-play recess each week” — 20 minutes per day — for students in kindergarten through fifth grade.

But the Innovation Subcommittee has filed a proposed amended bill that would:

▪ let schools count recess time toward physical education requirements for students in grades K-3;

▪ and, would require district school boards to “provide free-play recess each week on days when physical education classes are not held” for grades K-3.

That still keeps a proposed mandate of “at least 20 consecutive minutes of free-play recess,” while seeming to compromise with school administrators worried about how to fit daily recess into the school day.

But in doing so, the proposed amended bill blends daily recess with physical education time — something that health and physical education experts don’t recommend.

And, the changes would eliminate consideration of fourth- and fifth-graders, cutting those students out of guaranteed daily recess time.

Expect Florida’s “recess moms” — and lawmakers — will have something to say about those ideas when the committee meets Tuesday.

Kristen M. Clark: 850-222-3095, kclark@miamiherald.com, @ByKristenMClark

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