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From the staff of the Tampa Bay Times

'We started this because of our kids,' Florida 'recess moms' say

Orlando Republican Rep. Rene Plasencia, right, meets with a group of “recess moms” on Tuesday, Feb. 7, 2017 in the Florida Capitol. The mothers -- from left: Amy Narvaez of Orlando, Stephanie Cox of St. Petersburg (not pictured), Angela Browning of Orlando, Christie Bruner of St. Petersburg, and Mandy Lipham of Lakeland -- were joined by Florida PTA legislation chair Angie Gallo (not pictured) in petitioning lawmakers to pass a state law for mandatory, daily recess in public elementary schools.

Kristen M. Clark / Times/Herald Tallahassee bureau

Orlando Republican Rep. Rene Plasencia, right, meets with a group of “recess moms” on Tuesday, Feb. 7, 2017 in the Florida Capitol. The mothers -- from left: Amy Narvaez of Orlando, Stephanie Cox of St. Petersburg (not pictured), Angela Browning of Orlando, Christie Bruner of St. Petersburg, and Mandy Lipham of Lakeland -- were joined by Florida PTA legislation chair Angie Gallo (not pictured) in petitioning lawmakers to pass a state law for mandatory, daily recess in public elementary schools.

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Last Tuesday, five mothers from Pinellas, Orange and Polk counties were on the road before dawn for their second, round-trip trek to Tallahassee this year, so they could persuade Florida lawmakers to support 20 minutes of recess a day in Florida's public elementary schools.

They're a passionate and dedicated group of "recess moms" -- a few of just many in Florida -- who have been fighting for several years to get mandatory daily recess, not only for their own young children but for all Florida elementary students.

IN-DEPTH: "Quest for daily recess: Moms renew fight for more free play in Florida Legislature"

Two of the moms -- Angela Browning and Amy Narvaez, both of Orlando -- have already seen victory in their local school district. Orange County adopted a 20-minutes-a-day policy in December with language that mirrors what lawmakers in Tallahassee are considering again in the upcoming 2017 session (SB 78/HB 67).

And while some school districts, like Miami-Dade, have made strides toward daily recess, there's still great disparities in Florida schools in which schoolchildren actually get traditional recess and how often. District administrators say there are logistical obstacles -- such as time in the day or space at the school -- that might make it difficult to implement recess in the daily routine.

Many moms -- like Christie Bruner and Stephanie Cox of St. Petersburg, and Mandy Lipham, of Lakeland -- are still fighting to get guaranteed daily recess for their children. And Browning and Narvaez continue to fight with them.

"Of course, we started this because of our kids, but is it fair for those moms who have worked alongside us all these years, and their kids still don’t have recess?" said Browning, a founder of the group Recess for All Florida Students.

Here's what Bruner had to say about why recess is so important for her three daughters, and click here to read our in-depth report on the political complexities of passing a statewide mandate for daily recess.

Herald writer Kyra Gurney contributed to this report.

[Last modified: Sunday, February 12, 2017 12:00pm]

    

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