Last week, state Sen. Anitere Flores, a Miami Republican, introduced a bill that calls for schools to allot “at least” 100 minutes of supervised but otherwise unstructured play time each school week. State Rep. Rene Plasencia, an Orlando Republican, intends to file a companion bill in the House.
Plasencia’s perspective is especially pertinent: he is a teacher.
The bill follows action in Polk County where, a year ago, the school board there supported a parent-backed drive calling for more recess time for kindergartners through fifth-graders at all county elementary schools — without cutting back on the state’s mandatory physical education time.
Plasencia acknowledged to The Lakeland Ledger last week that he initially downplayed parents’ concerns about a shortage of recess time. But the advocacy of parents in Polk County helped him understand parents really were worked up about their kids’ lack of play time.
“It made me realize we need to have a statewide solution because school districts statewide aren’t providing the recess that our kids need,” Plasencia, who filed a recess bill in the past, told The Ledger. “Last year we were able to find a Senate sponsor and pass it off the House floor, but it never gained traction in the Senate.”
Flores, in a recent interview about her bill, possibly gave parents hope that teachers and students whose school days are already cramped by the testing framework may find some relief — and not just for recess.
“I think one of the things that this will allow us to do is to have a conversation as to what does this average typical day of a student look like?” Flores told the Miami Herald.
“Maybe there are some state-mandated issues that we need to re-evaluate,” she added. “I do think there’s time for this and I think when you speak anecdotally with teachers, they’ll tell you there is time for this. The proof is in the fact that several schools and districts already do it.”
Flores continued, “Ideally, you wouldn’t need a piece of legislation for this, but we’re obviously at a point where school districts say they don’t have time or are using not having time as a crutch. We need to make this work.”
Yes, we do. And Flores nailed the point beautifully.
Polk County’s School Board proved that education leaders can set aside time for students to have fun amid hauling the weight of test preparation. More importantly, Flores’ bill would kick that crutch from beneath them. After all, educators from the top down are always complaining about state mandates. What is one more?
The difference here, perhaps, is that Flores, Plasencia and other recess supporters can work to scale back some of the requirements that, as school districts will argue next spring, prevent schools from accommodating recess. If that happens, we predict school will be a happier place for students and teachers alike.