Recess is different than PE, and your school should have both. I once worked for a charter school that eliminated recess and only had PE. But because everyone (and their mama) wants recess, they called (required) PE time “recess” on some days. Parents were misled by thinking they had PE three times a week and recess twice a week. But it was really just PE all week. This meant that everyday was required, structured physical activity and that unstructured playtime was virtually nonexistent.
This is a problem for a lot of reasons. Removing unstructured playtime is nothing short of inhumane. Students need unstructured time to learn how to become structured. They need to pick teams, and figure out social norms. They need to organize and fight imaginary monsters together. They need time to process and let their minds wander. They need recess, and they need PE, which is why Florida state law requires both.
Specifically, section 1003.455, of Florida Statute requires 150 minutes of physical education each week for students in grades K-5, with each session lasting at least 30 minutes. On top of this, elementary school students must also have, “at least 100 minutes of supervised, safe, and unstructured free-play recess each week...so that there are at least 20 consecutive minutes of free-play recess per day.” This may sound like a lot of time to devote to PE, and it is. But that’s precisely the point-- students need considerable time each week for both PE and recess because it is essential, not only for their physical development and wellbeing, but also for their social and emotional growth.
When we remove recess and/or PE from the curriculum, our children suffer, which is why it’s so alarming that the recess requirements established by the statute don’t apply to charter schools or private schools. This loophole means that private and charter schools often cut corners by removing PE and/or recess time, and as a parent, that’s something you should be concerned about.
Physical education has its own set of state standards for a reason, and recess is required for a reason, and children deserve schools that adhere to them. So when you’re evaluating a school for your child, consider asking them about PE and recess times, and remember-- there’s a difference.