Recess moms sound alarm on students losing playtime

Florida Politics | By Jacob Ogles | November 15, 2023

Parent advocates pushed for requirements to go into effect in 2017.

The “recess moms,” a group of parents who pushed for recess requirements in Florida schools, say playtime is at risk.

A series of bills intended to reduce regulations on school districts includes revisiting requirements in place since 2017.

Angie Gallo lobbied seven years ago for the Legislature to put requirements in place for at least 20 minutes of unstructured free play time each day — equaling 100 minutes a week — during the school day from kindergarten through fifth grade. Gallo now serves as an Orange County School Board member, and will testify in favor of keeping recess in state law.

“I just want to remind them of the work we did in 2017, and the reason the bill was implemented,” Gallo said.

The Florida Senate Education Pre-K-12 Committee on Wednesday will consider a bill (SPB 7004) that would strip the requirement that play be unstructured, and would eliminate a requirement for minutes of free time to be consecutive.

Marucci Guzmán, the Executive Director of Latino Leadership and a part of the effort to get requirements in the first place, fears some teachers will elect for five-minute brain breaks in class.

“That 20 minutes was based on research from the (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention), the National Education Association, the Florida PTA, the American Academy of Pediatrics, all the people who are smarter than us,” Guzmán said. “It all showed this is what’s good for our kids.”

She said what kids learn in school isn’t all from pen-and-paper learning. The soft skills learned from interacting with kids, including interacting with one another on the playground, can shape their success in life.

Gallo said Orange County school districts will keep recess in place even if the state requirement disappears. But it’s likely not every school district will put a local requirement in place.

The fact that the language is appearing at all signals somebody is seeking the change. Gallo said she agrees generally with the idea of loosening state control of education policies and allowing local School Boards more power.

“But I was an original recess mom,” she said. “I want to make sure legislators know why it was this requirement was put in place. I’m sure districts want some flexibility, but what got us together in the first place was that we couldn’t get individual districts to do the right thing.”

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