Required elementary school recess, activity bills advance in Va.

WASHINGTON — Virginia’s House and Senate have approved bills that would require an average of 20 minutes of recess or other physical activity per day for elementary school students.

The slightly differing bills would each amend an existing requirement for a physical fitness program available to all students.

Current law directs school systems to have a goal of at least 150 minutes of activity per week for all students. This factors in a combination of physical education classes, extracurricular athletics or other programs the local school board deems appropriate to include as a goal.

The bills would change that goal to require the programs be implemented, and to define the requirement as physical activity rather than physical fitness.

The changes would define the requirements as at least 20 minutes per day or an average of 100 minutes per week of activity available to all students from kindergartners to fifth-graders, while maintaining a “goal” of at least 150 minutes per week on average during the regular school year for students in grades six through 12.

The bills would also specifically allow school systems to count recess toward their physical activity plans for the first time, although local school boards could have deemed it appropriate to consider before.

The full House of Delegates approved House Bill 357 Thursday on a 72-26 vote.

A day earlier, the bill’s sponsor Del. Manoli Loupassi told the House that students need to move around during the day in order to learn.

“If you go to jail, they let you get an hour a day of exercise. But we’re saying you can’t get 20 minutes in school, and I think that’s wrong,” said Loupassi, R-Richmond.

Several other delegates, like Del. Rick Morris, challenged adding another requirement for local school systems.

“This is the quintessential nanny state bill. This is centralized, top-down dictating of how the local school boards will even conduct, to the number of minutes, recess,” said Morris, R-Carrollton.

On the Senate side, Senate Bill 211 was approved on a 22-17 vote a week earlier.

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