Originally published Dec. 14, 2018 in the Roanoke Times.
By Andrew Adkins
Recess time will officially be extended for Roanoke County elementary school students, following a trial run that administrators said has yielded positive results.
The Roanoke County School Board approved the new recess policy Thursday through its consent agenda. Central office staff had proposed the move last month.
Students in all elementary grade levels will be guaranteed 40 minutes of recess — or unstructured physical activity — on days they don’t attend a physical education class. On days when they do, they would be guaranteed at least 20 minutes of recess time. The old policy called for 25 to 30 minutes of daily unstructured physical activity, schools spokesman Chuck Lionberger said.
Recess sessions, weather permitting, will take place outdoors twice per day — morning and afternoon.
Roanoke County was able to extend its recess time this school year after state legislation was enacted July 1 that gives school divisions more flexibility. The new law allows schools to count recess as 15 percent of the required five-and-a-half hours of daily instruction, or about 50 minutes.
To facilitate the change, the law also reduces the minimum instructional hours that must be spent on teaching English, math, science and social studies from four hours and eight minutes to three hours and 47 minutes.
The legislation came amid a movement by parents and guardians advocating for more recess time in schools. Locally, several parents and guardians have urged school divisions to increase its recess time. Some have organized through a Facebook group, More Recess for the Roanoke Valley, to promote the mission.
Proponents of longer recess point to studies indicating better learning outcomes for young students when they have more time to play and exercise during the school day.
Roanoke County’s new policy is effective immediately.