Originally Published: April 14, 2018 6 a.m.
After Gov. Doug Ducey on April 5 signed legislation that requires Arizona’s public and charter elementary schools, grades K-5, to offer two recess periods every school day, Joe Howard, superintendent of Prescott Unified School District, said he wished the legislators would devote their time on more important matters.
“There’s a whole lot of other things that I would hope they’d spend their time on,” Howard said. “At least in Prescott, I don’t think we need any direction on recess.”
The new law begins for the coming school year, 2018-19, for grades K-3 and adds fourth and fifth grades in the 2019-20 school year.
The law does not specify how long each recess period needs to be. Lunch breaks count, as long as students have an opportunity to engage in physical activity or interact with others. Physical education classes also count as one of the two recess periods.
And the law requires half-day kindergarten to have at least one recess period.
The state does not require schools to lengthen the school day to add the recess time.
Those in support of the new law say additional recess time will help students’ academic performance. Opponents wanted the state to let districts decide on recess.
Local school superintendents do not appear concerned about the new law.
John Scholl, superintendent for Chino Valley Unified School District, said, “It looks like all our grades meet the requirements; they already have two recesses. It’s not an issue with us.”
At Humboldt Unified School District, Superintendent Dan Streeter noted the law could impact the district’s fourth and fifth grades.
“We’re all looking at the master schedule to make any adjustments. I don’t see any issues,” Streeter said.
Howard also mentioned meeting with all the district’s principals to make sure their schools are in compliance with the new law.
“I think we should be really good,” Howard said. “It’s important to get our kids out and give them time to relax and take care of their bodies.
“It’s always been a value to us, and will continue to be a value.”
This past year, The Daily Courier reported that PUSD elementary schools offer 50 minutes of recess/lunch time for kindergarteners, with 35 combined minutes for grades 1-4. Fifth- and sixth-graders have available 35 minutes before school begins, 20 minutes at lunch and another break of five to 10 minutes.
State law requires students in grades 1 through 3 to have at least 712 hours of instruction a year to be counted when the Department of Education divides up financial aid. That’s four hours a day over the normal 180-day school year. For those in grades 4 through 6, the minimum is 890 hours, or 5 hours each day.