WASHINGTON — When the next school year begins in Prince William County, elementary students will get twice as much exercise and unstructured time as they currently get — and other school systems will likely add extra playground time.
A new Virginia law, which goes into effect July 1, allows school systems to count recess as part of the instructional day. Until now, the law only dictated how many hours of instruction were needed, and school systems had to squeeze-in recess.
Currently, Prince William County allots 15 minutes per day for recess — under the new law, students will be allowed 30 minutes daily for unstructured activity.
For years, parents and educators have long argued that elementary school students learn better when they get more exercise and play time.
Under the new law, local school boards can include “unstructured recreational time that is intended to develop teamwork, social skills, and overall physical fitness,” for up to 15 percent of the required 680 hours of instructional time.
“We’ve long understood the benefits of exercise and unstructured activity for student learning, health, and wellbeing,” said Prince William County Schools superintendent Steve Walts. “This new law means we’re free to build those benefits into the daily instructional time that Virginia requires.”
The bills were headed by Del. Karrie Delaney, D-67th District and Sen. Chap Petersen, D-34th District.