School board member pushing for additional recess time for students

YORK COUNTY, Va. - A new law means schools across Virginia can add more recess time for students.

The law, which goes into effect in July, states schools can now allocate up to 15 percent of yearly instructional time to recess. The decision follows research showing increased unstructured play time can help students learn better.

York County School Board member Michael Anderson is leading the push for more recess time in his community. He hopes to add 10 additional minutes with a recess period in both the morning and afternoon.

“[The superintendent] is forming a committee that consists of teachers, administrators and parents to look at the current school year and discuss the feasibility of increasing the recess times and how they’ll manipulate the schedule," said Anderson.

On his own, Anderson tells News 3 he's holding two Q&A sessions for parents this week: One on Tuesday at 7 p.m. inside Tabb Library and another Thursday at 7 p.m. inside the Yorktown Library.

Anderson already has support from some parents like Melissa James, who has two kids in York County elementary schools.

“I would like to see my children have a more well-rounded experience at school and not just have everything be so focused on sitting in a seat and looking at books," she said. "[The teachers] have a lot of interactive, engaging activities, but it’s still structured time and anything you read as a parent is going to tell you how important play is.”

James Richardson, Chair of the York County School Board, told News 3 over the phone that althought a couple parents have spoken about the topic of increased recess at meetings, the board itself has not discussed it yet. Although, he did confirm the superintendent is planning to form a committee.

News 3 reached out to several other area districts asking if they've considered additional time for recess. A spokesperson for Portsmouth schools said no. A spokesperson for Norfolk Public Schools said a newly adopted wellness policy recommended 20 minutes of recess everyday for each school.

Here are other responses:

"VBCPS elementary schools currently offer recess 5 days a week for 15 minutes. This is typically offered at the end of the 30 minute PE block, and provides students an additional 15 minutes of movement and unstructured play time or “recess” bringing the total PE block to 45 minutes (30 minutes of PE + 15 minutes of recess).

The new policy, which allows divisions to count recess time as part of the instructional minutes, does provide the division some flexibility to offer schools opportunities to increase the 15 minutes currently being provided, either all at once, or at other points during the school day. This way students may have more than one opportunity for a recess within a given day. VBCPS central staff will be providing schools direction regarding the new policy and guidelines for structuring recess within their school’s schedules."

- Eileen Cox, Virginia Beach Public Schools

"Our academic staff has been reviewing the new state law and we're sure the Department of Education will issue some guidance to school divisions. Students in Pre-K through 5th grade currently have 30 minutes daily for recess."

-Michelle Price, Newport News Public Schools

"[Hampton City Schools] is taking into account the new law and the changes; however, at this point we have not made any decisions on how this will look in Hampton next school year."

- Kellie Goral, Hampton City Schools