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Virginia makes play time a priority in elementary schools

RICHMOND, Va. – On Friday, the Virginia Senate approved legislation that will make play time a priority in elementary schools across the Commonwealth.

“Our children need unstructured play time, preferably outside. Cutting recess to 10 or 15 minutes a day is just not enough for young learners,”  said Sen. Barbara Favola, D-Arlington, a co-sponsor of the Senate bill.

According to the Capitol News Service, SB 273 came back for a vote on conference committee changes by the House and Senate negotiators. The Senate also approved HB 1419. Both were sent to Gov. Ralph Northam on 39-1 votes.

“The elementary years are a time of immense social and emotional growth and allowing for adequate unstructured play both enables development of these skills, as well as provides a healthy energy outlet for younger students who are not ready to sit still for a full academic day,” Favola said.

The legislation would require, if Northam passes the bill, for local school officials and school boards to allocate unstructured play time toward the minimum instructional hours public schools must meet each school year, giving an incentive to provide more recess time.

“We’ve been working hand-in-hand with them from the beginning,” said Larrimore. “We wanted it done a very specific way so that it wouldn’t affect the school schedule like art, music and PE because those are important and also part of a healthy diet of education for kids.”

Out of the 50 U.S. states, Virginia will be one of only eight states that require play time in elementary schools, according to the 2016 Shape of the Nation Report.

The Senate bill co-sponsored by Favola and Petersen calls for recess to be counted under instructional time specifically in elementary schools.