Bill would make recess mandatory

Some Florida moms who have spent the past year demanding mandatory recess in Florida public schools are taking their fight to the statehouse.   The women convinced State Rep. Rene Plasencia, R-Orlando, and State Sen. Alan Hayes, R-Umatilla, to file House Bill 833 and Senate Bill 1002, respectively.  The measures would require school districts to provide 20 minutes of uninterrupted recess each day for students in kindergarten through grade 5.  The law would also require recess for students in grade 6 if those students attend a school that includes one or more elementary grades. 

Plasencia, a former teacher, said he hesitated to file his bill initially, because he tends to think decisions about what should happen in classrooms are best made at the local level.  He said he decided to file his bill after watching parents’ calls for mandatory recess go unanswered. “What convinced me was the lack of response from local school districts state wide,” Plasencia said. 

Over the past year or so the calls for recess have been led by a group of Orange County mothers who have come to describe themselves as the “recess moms.”  They started in Orange County Public Schools, where they were unable to convince the school board to mandate playtime, but did prompt the school board to pass a resolution recommending that schools provide time for play.  Some schools added recess time.  “I was successful at my school.  My kids do get 20 minutes a day of recess and they like school better,” said Amy Narvaez.

The self-described “recess mom” says she pushed for the playtime after her kindergartener expressed a hatred for school.  Narvaez said kids are being worn out by preparations for high-stakes standardized tests.  “I’m still fighting for all the mothers that don’t have recess every single day,” Narvaez said. 

Plasencia admitted to the success of the bills will depend on whether or not parents—including the recess moms—can convince the heads of the legislative committees who will hear the bills to bring them to a vote. "I think we can get it passed.  I think we have a strong group of moms that are relentless," Narvaez said.