Sometimes, a brain needs a break.

A new law going into effect this school year has the aim of helping students get those needed breaks, and Crossett Elementary School’s principal said that adding in extra recess to meet the law’s requirements was no trouble at all and will be good for the students.

House Bill 1409, sponsored by Rep. Jana Della Rosa, was filed in early February for the 92nd legislative session. The proposal suggested requiring elementary schools across the state to provide at least 40 minutes of recess for its students.

HB 1409 passed through both the house and the senate with zero opposition — 92 in favor, eight abstaining — and made its way to the governor’s desk March 27.

According to an April news release, Gov. Asa Hutchinson signed the bill into law on April 1.

“By setting a minimum time for recess, we are not only promoting a healthy, active Arkansas, but I believe teachers will also notice more active minds in the classroom,” Hutchinson said in the news release. “I’m always delighted to sign bills into law that are as popular as this one.”

Statistics from the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, say the average time for recess is 27 minutes per day, just above the national guideline of 20 minutes per day. Only eight states require that recess be a part of the day at all.

Recess times have decreased forty percent over the last 20 years, with many school administrators claiming that they cannot allow for a sufficient amount of recess time and stay within the construct of the instructional requirements and time allotted in a school day. Some instructors reported that the restrictions generated decreased focus in class and fewer opportunities to develop social awareness among public school students.

The new law addresses the increased need for public school student social awareness and learning opportunities beyond the classroom, and states recess should be included as part of the instructional school day.

In addition, the new law states that recess must consist of “supervised, unstructured social time during which public school students may communicate with each other”. That it must occur outdoors when weather and other relevant conditions permit and include “without limitation opportunities for free play and vigorous physical activity, regardless of whether recess occurs indoors or outdoors.”

CES principal Veronica Robinson said she expects the longer recess periods to positively benefit her students.

CES will now have a morning and an afternoon recess. Robinson said the students will go out in the mornings and the afternoons instead of directly after they eat lunch. The recesses will be organized by grades and will be supervised by the students classroom teacher.

“This will give us more supervision on the playground,” Ropbinson said.

Crossett Learning Center Assistant Principal Janet Ricks said the new law allows for much needed “brain breaks” and she believes the students will be more focused as a result.

“I’m really proud that our legislators did this,” Ricks said.

Other schools across the state started increasing their recess time even before the state law and those schools report that it benefited the students tremendously.

According to news articles across the state, Marguerite Vann Elementary in Conway, allowed students 60 minutes per recess a day during the 2018-2019 school year.

Della Rosa said that administrators from the Conway school emailed her thanking her for her bill and to offer their support because their school saw such positive results from the increased time.

To date, nine states — Florida, New Jersey, Georgia, Virginia, Missouri, Arizona, Connecticut, Indiana and Rhode Island — have all passed legislation which focuses on extending and/or protecting recess. Arkansas currently requires six hours of daily instructional time for public school students and a waiver must be granted for additional recess time.

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