Say the word “recess,” and memories of running around the blacktop outside school, tag and jumprope come to mind. The brief respite from the confines of the classroom is a time for students to catch up with friends, burn pent-up energy and navigate complicated social constructs.
For these reasons, state lawmakers are considering mandating 20 minutes of daily recess for elementary schools in New Jersey. School officials say they see the benefit.
“Recess is an important part in the social and physical development of a child. In play, they learn, practice and master skills on how to be a good friend,” said Ocean City Primary School Principal Cathleen Smith.
Students there receive 20 minutes daily of unstructured recess time. At the Ocean City Intermediate School, the fourth- and fifth-grade students receive 15 minutes per day of recess, Smith said.
In nearby Margate, K-8 students receive 20 minutes of recess during their lunch period. Like Smith, Margate school Superintendent John DiNicola said fresh air and socialization are important benefits of recess. He had no problem with the legislation, but was concerned about the requirements.
“I hope that the state does not over legislate how recess should be conducted,” DiNicola said, as some students use the time for homework help and to attend meetings for clubs.
For many schools in the state, recess seems to be the norm. According to an informal survey of by the New Jersey of its readers in 2013, 75 percent said their schools offered daily recess, while 9.2 percent were unsure.
The NJSBA said it supports the bill, but has concerns similar to DiNicola’s.
“We believe districts should be able to make individual decisions on how to implement recess in the daily schedule,” NJSBA spokeswoman Jeanette Rundquist said.