Florida debates play time at schools

Posted at 5:03 AM, Jan 26, 2016
and last updated 2016-01-26 11:07:50-05

Play time is no longer a guaranteed right of passage and relief for elementary school students in Florida public schools, but a bill to change that will be considered Tuesday morning by the Education Committee of Florida's House of Representatives.

HB 833 would require that Florida public school students in Kindergarten through 5th grade get 20 minutes of "unstructured free-play" every school day.

Supporters, including many teachers and parents in the Tampa Bay Area, say kids are shown to have more energy for the second-half of the day, and do a better job of paying attention in class, when they do have recess.

Some school administrators have phased out recess to make time for state mandated academic requirements, such as 90 minutes of reading time, and claim they might need to lengthen the school day if the bill were to become law.

While still in the trial phase, such a threat does not appear to be a reality in Polk County, where the school board, faced with a vocal group of parents, recently voted to bring back recess.

A 'Recess Committee' was formed to review the measure beforehand, and deemed it both important enough and feasible enough to try to implement 20 minutes of play-time each day for elementary school students.

Many of the parents involved in that effort are part of the effort to bring back recess state-wide, including Polk County parent Amanda Lipham, the founder of a group called Bring Back Daily Recess, who will be testifying at the hearing on Tuesday in support of the bill.

The issue is first on the Education Committee's agenda on Tuesday, and is scheduled to last 2 hours, beginning at 9 a.m.