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The Arkansas House unanimously passed a bill Thursday that would double the amount of recess time afforded to elementary school students each day in Arkansas.

House Bill 1409 by Rep. Jana Della Rosa, R-Rogers, would require public elementary schools to provide students at least 40 minutes of unstructured social time each day.

Della Rosa said that more recess improves learning and encourages the development of social skills. Advocates told the House Education Committee last week that most Arkansas schoolchildren are permitted about 18 minutes of recess a day.

[RELATED: Complete Democrat-Gazette coverage of the Arkansas Legislature]

Recess times have declined in recent years in the face of additional state mandates for things that must be accomplished each school day.

HB1409 solves the problem by categorizing recess as "instructional time," which must comprise at least six hours of a school day. The change, in addition to adding more time for student play, will also free up "duty time" for non-instructional activities like lunch.

The bill now heads to the Senate.

-- Hunter Field

A Section on 03/15/2019

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