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Lagana, Jasey & Wimberly Bill to Require School Recess Heads to Governor’s Desk

Legislation Would Require Daily Recess Period in Grades K-5

Legislation Assembly Democrats Joe Lagana, Mila Jasey and Benjie Wimberly sponsored to require daily recess periods for grade school students received final legislative approval from the Senate on Thursday. It now heads to the governor’s desk.

“In addition to giving children time to recharge during the school day, recess allows students to develop their social skills and get some physical activity,” said Lagana (D-Bergen/Passaic). “With more and more young people at risk for illnesses due to inactivity, it’s critical for recess to be a part of their routine starting at an early age.”

The bill (A-4044) would require public school districts to provide a daily recess period of at least 20 minutes for students in kindergarten through fifth grade. The recess period shall be held outdoors, if feasible.

In calling for the legislation, Lagana cited data showing that one in six children in the United States is overweight and more children are developing cardiovascular risk factors and Type 2 diabetes.

“For schoolchildren, particularly the youngest among them, having an unstructured period of time to relax and interact with peers is more than just playtime,” said Jasey (D-Essex/Morris). “The interpersonal skills that students cultivate during recess are essential to their social development.”

A period of rest between vigorous cognitive tasks also can help students be more attentive and better process information when they return to the classroom, Jasey noted.

“Reading, writing and arithmetic certainly are essential to every young person’s education, but to develop well-rounded students, we also have to emphasize the importance of recess,” said Wimberly (D-Bergen/Passaic), recreation coordinator for Paterson public schools. “When the children come back to the classroom after the break, they’re more focused and ready to learn, which creates a better environment for teachers and students alike.”

School-aged children should participate in a minimum of 60 minutes per day of moderate to vigorous physical activity, according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, the U.S. Department of Education and the National Association for Sport and Physical Education.

The bill was passed unanimously by both the Assembly and the Senate.