What is the future of recess in K-12?

Elementary schools are extending the school day so students can have more play time
By: | December 10, 2019
While many elementary schools are accommodating more recess by extending the school day, some middle schools are cutting school recess.Photo by Bambi Corro on Unsplash

Many districts plan to or have already extended the elementary school day to accommodate more recess. Other school systems could register free play as class time. But some students will lose school recess once they get into middle school. 

In Utah, public schools could count recess as instructional time under a new policy that the State Board of Education agreed to vote on later, reported Deseret News

In Arkansas, a new state law that requires elementary schools to provide at least 40 minutes of school recess every day led North Little Rock School District to extend the elementary school day by 20 minutes, the district’s executive director of elementary curriculum, assessment and accountability told Arkansas Democrat Gazette


Related: Lawmakers requiring more recess in schools

Related: States that require recess, states that require general and physical activity


In Indiana, Carmel Clay Schools is considering lengthening the elementary school day to add more recess and instructional time for the 2020-21 school year, which would cost approximately $350,000 annually, the district superintendent told Current

Meanwhile, Derby Public Schools in Kansas will eliminate recess and shorten classes in middle school to add a new eight-period bell schedule for the 2020-2021 school year, reported the DerbyInformer.com


Related: How unsupervised sunscreen use is gaining approval in K-12 districts


“Going from fifth grade where [students] have recess built into the day … to transitioning [into] middle school, where we take that away from them, we know we need to get our sixth graders more active,” said a Derby middle school principal. 

Making time for more recess

In New York, Bridgehampton Union Free School District  uses freeplay to support mental health programs, reported District Administration. Called MEGA Recess, grade-schoolers earn tickets by participating in activities, such as dancing, board games and video games. Students who win 40 tickets can unlock the next MEGA Recess for the following month.

To make room for school recess, principals can take minutes from non-instruction time, such as when students change classrooms, walk to the lunchroom or get ready to go outside. “In a day, there are definitely 20 minutes that can be collected so that students can enjoy daily recess,” Tarrah DeClemente, manager of health promotion at Chicago Public Schools, told DA.

As far as supervision, schools can hire recess coaches or rotate staff. “Recess is just as important as math, science and other curricular courses,” DeClemente said. 

Resource: Strategies for RECESS in Schools