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Tennessee lawmakers revise school recess law to strike the right balance on playtime

(Joe Mahoney/The I-News Network at Rocky Mountain PBS)

Tennessee teachers will have more flexibility over their students’ recess time under a bill that Gov. Bill Haslam is expected to sign into law.

The state Senate voted unanimously on Monday to approve the measure, which rolls back stringent playtime requirements that went into effect this school year. The legislation passed unanimously last week in the House.

Last year, lawmakers tried to address the importance of play when they mandated three daily 15-minute periods for kindergarten and two daily 20-minute periods for grades 2-6. But educators called the law restrictive and said the short periods of recess were logistically challenging.

Since then, lawmakers have debated whether to keep state mandates in place, as many parents want, or return control of recess back to local districts.

The bill that passed is a compromise. It still mandates recess, but would give teachers more control over how to dole it out, requiring 130 minutes of physical activity per school week for elementary schools and 90 minutes for middle and high schools. Teachers also could organize games during those periods, while before the law mandated “free play.”

The measure is sponsored by Rep. Bill Dunn of Knoxville and Sen. Jim Tracy of Shelbyville.

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