New Jersey lawmaker wants to mandate recess through fifth grade

The recess yard at Kipp Cooper Norcross Academy in Camden. (Kimberly Paynter/WHYY)

The recess yard at Kipp Cooper Norcross Academy in Camden. (Kimberly Paynter/WHYY)

A measure being considered by New Jersey lawmakers would require public school districts to provide a daily recess period of at least 20 minutes for students from kindergarten through fifth grade.

Recess is good for kids, said Marybeth Beichert with the New Jersey Education Association during a hearing on the measure.

“It’s the only time that students get to be themselves and play and be free,” she said. “Students need unstructured time to become well advanced in academics, social, and emotional behaviors in an otherwise very structured world that they sit in every single day,” she said.

Sen. Shirley Turner, D-Mercer, said being active at recess could help fight child obesity and health problems.

“And if they don’t get the activity in school, they’re not going to get it at home, particularly in our urban areas,” Turner said. “Because when kids come home from school and also on the weekends, chances are they’re not going to go outside because their parents are fearful that something is going to happen in the way of a shooting or drug abuse.”

But some school districts have concerns about the recess mandate, said Betsy Ginsburg with the Garden State Coalition of Schools.

“In some of our member districts with smaller buildings, gyms are used as lunchrooms, and to find the space on inclement weather days is going to be a problem,” she said.

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