Mandatory Fun: Recess is about to be required in all Georgia elementary schools

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The Gist: Georgia lawmakers passed a bill that will make recess mandatory in all elementary schools starting with the 2018-2019 school year.

The Details: Elementary schools will be required by the state to schedule daily recess — with some exceptions — for about 30 minutes each day. The bill does not require 30 minutes, but strongly recommends it.

Your child’s teacher also can’t withhold recess for disciplinary or academic reasons. So, children who haven’t finished their work in class can still have their play time. In addition, the bill requires that recess must provide a break from learning, so this is to be completely unstructured time for kids to relax and enjoy something non-academic.

What’s Different?: You may think recess is already required, but it isn’t. Under the current law, the state allows each school system to set its own policies for “unstructured activities.” That’s why some school districts have 15 to 20 minute recesses and others have 30 minutes. The new bill is in response to shrinking and disappearing recess times.

The Exceptions: There are, however, enough exemptions to the mandatory recess bill that make it, well, semi-mandatory at best. Here are a few of the circumstances that would allow your child’s school to call of recess for the day:

  • Days when kids have PE
  • Inclement weather (provided there is no indoor space available)
  • Field trips or assemblies that run over their scheduled times
  • Emergencies
  • Acts of God
  • Any situation beyond a teacher’s control that would interfere with recess.

What about Middle Schools?: Under the new bill, local school systems would still be setting the policies for unstructured activities in middle school.

Why are we doing this?: As you may have heard, childhood obesity rates are on the rise. Georgia’s lawmakers don’t think recess is a cure-all for that problem, but they are banking on the idea that allowing children to get some exercise and see the sun during the school day could help.

Who’s behind it?: Stockbridge democrat Demetrius Douglas introduced the bill. You may recognize his name from his days in the NFL or as a football player for the University of Georgia. 

Is it a law yet?: Not yet. Governor Nathan Deal hasn’t signed it, but he hasn’t given any indication that he won’t sign it.