General Assembly Action Means More Time For Recess

May 14, 2018

School boards across Virginia are hunkering down over calendars now, trying to come up with a schedule for next year.  And school board members have some new flexibility this year to increase recess time.

Many school officials across Virginia have wanted to increase recess time for years. But they’ve been stuck in a box. How to squeeze it into the day and still meet all the instructional requirements?

Delegate Karrie Delaney is a freshman Democrat from Fairfax County. “In order to increase recess, the school day would have had to have been made longer because we couldn’t count it as part of the instructional hours. And then if you could, there wasn’t really instructional hours to take from because they were all allocated.”

So she introduced a bill that allowed schools to count recess as instructional time and also reduces the time requirement for core subjects. The General Assembly passed the bill, and the governor signed it. That opened the way for the Prince William County School Board to double the amount of recess time from 15 minutes to 30 minutes.

Babur Lateef is chairman of the Prince William School Board. “None of us works sixty minutes straight in an hour," Lateef said. "I mean we will if we’re on deadline or a project. But we’ll all take five minute breaks to get a cup of coffee or chit-chat at the water cooler. No one is really dedicated or focused for that solid sixty minutes, and it’s a lot to ask of our children.”

But, he says, there can be too much of a good thing. Sixty minutes is probably too much. Lateef says half an hour is probably the sweet spot.

This report, provided by Virginia Public Radio, was made possible with support from the Virginia Education Association.