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Florida Parent Protest Leads Local District to Require Recess

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Parents in Lake County, Fla., who have been lobbying their school district leaders for recess, claimed a partial victory this week.

Lake County School District Superintendent Susan Moxley issued a directive on Nov. 4 that guarantees a minimum of 60 minutes of recess each week for all elementary school students. According to the directive, recess is defined as: "unstructured playtime with guidelines for safety that is supervised by adults, but not directed by adults." Teachers, at the district's 21 elementary schools, are tasked with determining when their students will have recess time.

According to a story in the Orlando Sentinel, recess has been a rallying cry for many parents in this 40,000-student district since July. Parents created a Facebook page to garner public support and held a protest Oct. 30, which even featured an appearance from a "Frozen" princess pleading her case. (See picture below.) Another group of parents in Orange County, Fla., lobbying for recess, also started a Facebook page and launched an online petition drive, which has gathered more than 1,000 signatures so far. 

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Lake County, Fla. parents, according to the Orlando Sentinel story, have been asking for 30 minutes of recess every day. The superintendent's directive amounts to 12 minutes of recess daily; however a school board member told Orlando television station, WKMG, that principals can increase recess time at their discretion.

According to the district's website, an advisory committee reviewed recess across the district this year. The Orlando Sentinel reports that the group ultimately recommended that the School Advisory Councils, whose members vote on rules at each school, develop their own recess guidelines. 

A spokesman for the Lake County School District, which is west of Orlando, told Education Week that the decision to permit recess for students has always been a school site decision. Some Lake County schools and teachers have held recess for their students, he said, but the superintendent's directive will establish a level of consistency throughout the district. (The National Association of State Boards of Education's website says Florida has no state policy requiring or recommending recess.)

Meanwhile, a policy statement issued by the American Academy of Pediatrics in 2012, describes recess as a "necessary break in the day for optimizing a child's social, emotional, physical and cognitive development."  

In conclusion, the American Academy of Pediatrics writes: "On the basis of an abundance of scientific studies, withholding recess for punitive or academic reasons would seem to be counterproductive to the intended outcomes and may have unintended consequences in relation to a child's acquisition of important life skills."

My own children have two recess periods daily at their Southern California school, while I believe in our previous school, in upstate New York, students had at least one recess daily except, of course, when the temperature dipped below 20 degrees.

Recess is crucial for one of my sons, who needs time to recharge his batteries after expending energy to focus and sit still in class. But I've also requested that he stay in the classroom to complete his work during recess. 

I'm eager to hear how teachers and parents in Lake County evaluate this change in their class schedule. Will recess become a distraction or a much needed break?

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