Loudoun School Board Considers Extending Recess

After a push from parents advocating more free time for students in school, the Loudoun County School Board is considering extending elementary students’ recess.

Most Loudoun elementary students get 15 minutes on the playground each school day, the minimum required by the School Board. Area parents and educators who are part of the statewide campaign called More Recess for Virginians want to see that doubled.

The board is considering adopting new policy language that would require no less than 40 minutes of recess for kindergartners each day and no less than 30 minutes of recess each day for students in grades 1-5. The proposed policy language would require principals to split the time into two sessions, a morning and afternoon recess.

The School Board’s Student Support and Services Committee is unanimously recommending that the full board adopt the new requirement.

At its meeting last night, the board heard what principals think of the idea. Results from the elementary principals surveyed showed that 67 percent already give their students more than the required 15 minutes, between 16 and 30 minutes of recess each day. But most are in favor of providing more.

Thirteen principals said they support the policy as written; 11 said they’re concerned about requiring the recess be split into two blocks; four suggested only extending recess to 20-15 minutes; and 15 principals are concerned about instructional time being lost, especially in the upper grades and with travel time for two recess blocks.

School Board member Eric DeKenipp (Catoctin) agreed that requiring principals to give students a morning and afternoon recess, as opposed to one extended recess, could make for a lot of time wasted. “If we want to give principals max flexibility, let’s give them max flexibility and leave it to them on whether they’d rather that time be in one or two blocks,” he said.

Beth Huck (At Large) said while having two recess blocks may be “a pain…research shows that having a time in the morning and the afternoon is the most beneficial. In the long run, we’ll get more out of students academically.”

Jill Turgeon (Blue Ridge) agreed, noting that it’s similar for employees. Most work environments allow for two shorter breaks rather than one long break. “Because we need that mental break and so do kids,” she said.

Eric Hornberger (Ashburn), who helped draft the policy language in committee, said the board can always adopt the new requirement and make adjustments down the road. “It doesn’t go all the way but it’s a start,” he said.

The board is scheduled to vote on the policy change at its June 26 meeting.

The renewed push for more playground time is spurred by a new Virginia law, which takes effect July 1, that allows school systems to count up to 50 minutes of recess each day as part of the instructional day. It also reduces the minimum instructional hours that must be spent teaching English, math, science and social studies by a total of 21 minutes per day.


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