Newspaper article The Record (Bergen County, NJ)

Playtime for School Kids Could Become the Law

Newspaper article The Record (Bergen County, NJ)

Playtime for School Kids Could Become the Law

Article excerpt

It's a bill kids would approve: Lawmakers want to mandate recess for all public school students from kindergarten to fifth grade.

Supporters say children need to get moving, and requiring at least 20 minutes a day for recess will help ease the nation's obesity crisis. But some North Jersey school officials say students already have playtime. And while they agree exercise is helpful, they are wary of another state mandate.

Kids spend too much time watching television and playing video games when they should be running around outdoors, says Sen. Shirley Turner, D-Mercer.

"Our children are very sedentary," Turner told a legislative panel considering her bill.

Turner is sponsoring legislation that would require that students in kindergarten through fifth grade get a 20-minute recess every day. The bill made it through a Senate committee on Thursday.

New Jersey school administrators say they support recess, but a state mandate goes too far.

"It's a shame that we have to legislate recess now. We are over- legislating everything in our schools," said Larry Hughes, the interim superintendent of the Montvale school district.

Hughes, who used to serve as the legislative representative of the Bergen County Association of Superintendents, said he was confident other administrators could address the need for recess and other developmental programs without the state's involvement.

In Ridgefield, where students have recess built into their 40- minute lunch period, interim Superintendent Harry Groveman said he, too, was wary of a new state requirement.

"We probably cover the 20 minutes, but I would probably be opposed to the legislation, based on the fact that it's another mandate that should be left to local control," he said.

The New Jersey Department of Education does not keep track of how many schools provide recess, and it does not have regulations related to play time, says Barbara Morgan, a department spokeswoman.

In addition to mandating the 20-minute recess, the bill says no student may be denied recess "for any reason." It also prohibits scheduling recess immediately before or after physical education classes.

Turner, the bill's sponsor, said the requirements are necessary because children need more time to exercise and play.

"They sit in front of their TV sets for hours at a time, in front of their computers, in front of their electronic games, and they do very little in the way of physical activity," she said.

The legislation passed unanimously in the Senate's Education Committee on Thursday. It has not yet been introduced in the Assembly.

School representatives told the committee they supported the idea of recess in every school, but they asked for more flexibility.

"We believe that there may be instances where recess should be denied," said Jennifer Keyes-Maloney, of the New Jersey Principals and Supervisors Association. …

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