A new law aimed at reducing Arizona’s elementary school students’ stress next school year won’t have much impact on Kyrene School District pupils.
Gov. Doug Ducey last week signed legislation mandating two recess periods a day for students in kindergarten through fifth grade. Youngsters in half-day kindergarten programs will get at least one break.
The legislation is the culmination of a decade-long effort by some lawmakers and education advocates who have argued that letting kids get up and move around actually will help their academic performance.
Prior efforts were sidelined amid concerns that more time on the playground would mean less time for actual reading, writing and ’rithmetic. But Sen. Sylvia Allen, R-Snowflake, crafted the final version in a way to blunt some of their concerns.
For example, it spells out that the lunch break can be counted as one of the two recess periods if students are allowed to interact with others or engage in physical activity. It also does not specify how long each recess period need to be.
In Kyrene, Susie Ostmeyer, chief information & accountability officer, said Kyrene already has “recognized the need to provide elementary children with adequate time for recess and to engage in active play.”
She said the new law “will have a minimal impact on Kyrene’s elementary school schedules, as all schools have a 20-minute recess period coupled with the lunch period and most schools have a second recess period of 15 minutes.”
But for Lagos Elementary in Ahwatukee and Norte in Tempe, the law will impact the dual-language academies’ schedule.
Ostmeyer said it “will require adjustments next year to accommodate instruction in two languages and meet recess statute requirements.
“The verification of the recess requirements will be included in the district’s annual review of school schedules to ensure that they all meet the requirements of the statute.”
The law spells out that schools need not extend the school day to make up for the lost class time.
Allen said that youngsters need a break.
“Our children are very stressed,’’ she told colleagues, blaming home life and the breakdown of the family as well as increased pressure on schools for academic performance.
Allen said students can’t be under those kinds of stresses and be expected to perform academically.
The measure drew some opposition.
Chris Kotterman, lobbyist for the Arizona School Boards Association, told lawmakers they should leave these decisions to locally elected school boards, saying they are looking out for their students.
“School districts do not make purposeful decisions that harm children,’’ Kotterman said.
-Capitol Media Services contributed to this report