Moms want 20 minutes of school recess a day. Will Florida Legislature act?
On a recent Friday afternoon, a troop of kindergarteners walked outside in a single-file line to their daily 20-minute recess break at Miami Gardens Elementary School.
Once the children reached the edge of a grassy field, they broke into a run. Two girls held hands and twirled in circles in the middle of the field, while the other kids split into groups to play tag.
“We get to have fun with our friends and play whatever we want,” said Raven Hightower, one of the kindergarteners. “We run around. We can find insects.” Her classmates chimed in — they enjoy playing tag and chasing butterflies, too.
Hightower and her classmates are lucky. Most Florida public schoolchildren don’t get outdoor playtime every school day — and getting it even several days a week isn’t a guarantee in many school districts.
In Miami-Dade County, elementary children are supposed to get it at least two to three days a week, with a few schools testing out the five-day model. Since December, Orange County public schools have required recess five days a week.
But in Pinellas County, students might have recess only twice a week. And in Polk County, one kindergarten class in Lakeland last year got recess for a short time only on Fridays.
Across Florida, how much unstructured playtime public elementary schoolchildren get each day varies greatly from school to school. Some of the state’s 67 county school districts don’t have a formal policy, and in those that do, administrators often give principals and teachers a lot of discretion.
It’s that inconsistency that’s leading passionate “recess moms” to once again lobby lawmakers this spring to pass a statewide, mandatory requirement that elementary schoolchildren get 20 minutes of recess each day.
“One day, we may not need this mandate for our children, but we need it now,” said Angela Browning, a mom from Orlando who helped found the group Recess for All Florida Students.