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Recess to be allowed as instructional time in Utah public schools

Utah teachers won't have to choose between instructional time and cutting recess, now that recess can be counted as class time. Stock photo courtesy of Getty Images.

SALT LAKE CITY — The state school board passed a rule change allowing recess to be counted as instructional time.

The rule passed unanimously in Wednesday’s board meeting.

“I actually believe this will bring joy to more children, with more opportunity to decompress and to invigorate their minds and their bodies,” said board member Laura Belnap in an interview with KSL NewsRadio.

Public schools are required to have 990 hours in the school year plus try and fit recess in. But this change means they don’t have to choose between class time or recess or cut into recess.

“I just think our kids need opportunities to play,” she said.

Belnap said she got the idea to count recess into the school day when she was visiting another country and saw how they took a ten-minute break every hour. It helped the students and the teachers both decompress.

The rule change also covers breakfast in the classroom. Some schools in lower-income areas offer breakfast to all students after the bell. That time could also count for instructional time.

Belnap says this allows parents and educators on the local level, through organizations like school community councils, to decide how to structure the school day.

Meanwhile, the state school board was also talking on Thursday about best practices for recess: what it should look like, how many adults should be there, and how there can be an environment for success.

Board member Jennie Earl says those discussions are not necessarily about structure, but about supervision.