In a victory for play, the New Jersey Assembly has passed a bill requiring state public schools to offer children a 20-minute recess. Supporters explained that recess is a necessary part of students’ day because it allowed young people time to practice social skills and to be active, which will ward off health problems later in life.
The bill is aimed at students from kindergarten through fifth grade and calls for having recess outside whenever possible. At this time, New Jersey does not require an activity break, according to the Associated Press.
The bill, passed by the Assembly last week, will have to be ironed out by the Senate and Assembly before it is sent for approval to Governor Chris Christie. A revision of the measure was that a student could lose the privilege of recess only if he or she was involved in a harassment, intimidation, or bullying investigation.
The recess period is mandated to be at least 20 minutes each day in an effort to promote communication, creativity, physical activity, and cooperation among children. If signed by the governor, the change will take place during the next school year, reports Adam Clark of the New Jersey Star-Ledger.
Most New Jersey schools already have recess, so Bill S1594 may make little difference, except for the fact that recess cannot be taken away as a punishment except when involving the offenses mentioned — and then it can only be taken away twice a week.
The measure was led by Sen. Shirley Turner (D-Mercer), who advocated for multiple years and who believes that recess is not just free time for kids.
“Recess is an opportunity for children to grow through socializing and imagination, both of which are vital to building a child’s character,” said Turner, the primary sponsor of the Senate bill.
And the bill cites rising childhood obesity levels and the benefits of physical activity as other reasons for imposing the implementation of the daily recess.
James Ford reports for WPIX-TV that some school officials claim the idea may be easier said than done. One example is best represented by a state of the art, three-year-old school, which has just about anything a parent or child could want in an elementary school. Colin Powell Elementary School has an excellent arts program, 19 students per teacher, and just won their latest state excellence award.
But Powell Elementary does not have a recess for third-graders or fourth-graders. It seems that other state requirements have caused them to be unable to have an outdoor activity break.
The reason is standardized testing, reports Principal Teresita Diaz. She said New Jersey’s PARCC Common Core testing requirement has forced many schools to focus on testing by making certain students are ready for exams. She adds that as much as she is thankful for the mandatory recess bill, it will be challenging to make regular student breaks possible.
Readjusting schools’ periods may require more money, which has not yet been allocated.