July 28, 2017 Radio Commentary

Recess: Yes or No?

Radio Commentary, 90.7, 91.7 New Life FM, July 28, 2017 – By Sue Ella Deadwyler

It might be under the radar, but a return to daily school recess is being discussed all over the country.  During the 2017 session, the Georgia House of Representatives voted 147 to 17 to pass H.B. 273, requiring local school boards to have a written recess policy for grades K – 12.  It does not REQUIRE schools to HAVE recess, but they must have a recess POLICY.

In fact, the bill has so much wiggle room that schools can have a recess policy on paper, without ever scheduling or allowing recess.  Even if schools voluntarily provide recess, it wouldn’t be required on any day it may interfere with physical education or a structured activity or an assembly or field trip or an emergency or disaster or an act of God.  H.B. 273 could be amended in 2018 to make recess mandatory, but this version timidly veers away from that.

The Senate Committee on Education and Youth favorably reported H.B. 273 out of committee, but it was tabled March 28th, leaving it alive for 2018.  That’s important, since the bill is now supported by members of the Professional Association of Georgia Educators, who might have been inspired by the national social media debate about the Florida recess bills. After a Florida Senate committee refused to consider a recess bill in 2016, a group of “recess moms” continued working to get it passed, and, in April this year, S. B. 78, requiring 100 minutes of recess every week, passed the Florida Senate, unanimously.  To rally support in other states, a “recess mom” from Orlando used Facebook to urge moms everywhere to push for school recess.  There’s no word about the current status of the Florida recess bill.

The last sentence in Georgia’s H.B. 273 is a disclaimer about student health and safety, but obviously, recess reduces stress and provides rest from academics.  Children are refreshed if left free to play, imagine and think, and socialize, all of which make young children and adolescents more attentive and productive in class.

These bills mention 20 or 30 minutes of daily recess, while the American Academy of Pediatrics and the CDC recommend 60 minutes of moderate to vigorous activity every day. If “recess moms” in Georgia get behind it, H.B. 273 could pass in Georgia next year.  For Georgia Insight, I’m Sue Ella Deadwyler, your Capitol