New Georgia law requires recess for elementary school students

Starting this fall, Georgia elementary schools will be required to have recess for kindergarten through fifth-grade students every day. 

Gov. Brian Kemp signed the bill into law Monday afternoon.  

"We have to get our kids moving again," said state Rep. Demetrius Douglas, D-Stockbridge, who sponsored the legislation.

Douglas has worked for years to ensure elementary school students get recess. He said state law only required physical education once a week before the bill was signed.  

"These are younger kids. They don't change classrooms like our middle school and our high school," Rep. Douglas explained. "So, they're stuck in one room the whole day other than lunch and that one day of P.E."  


Rep. Douglas said recess helps students stay fit physically and academically. 

Students on a school playground. (FILE PHOTO)

Students on a school playground. (FILE PHOTO) (FOX 5 Atlanta)

Dr. Erica Fener Sitkoff, executive director of Voices for Georgia Children, said research supports that.

"This type of physical activity and unstructured physical activity directly impacts students' ability to be engaged in class," said Dr. Sitkoff. "It helps with their concentration. Take in the instruction and material."  

Under the new law, elementary schools must schedule recess every day for children in kindergarten through fifth grade beginning with the 2022-2023 school year.  

The length, timing and location of those breaks would be up to local school boards to determine. The law does allow for exceptions when field trips, school assemblies or inclement weather conflict with recess.  

Gov. Kemp vetoed a similar bill in 2019, citing "local control." That bill required recess to be 30 minutes.

Rep. Douglas said after meeting with members of the governor's staff, he took that out of the legislation.  

"We made some changes. Is it everything I wanted? No. Did I have to compromise? Yes. But is it a start? Absolutely, and I'm thrilled with just a start," said Rep. Douglas.

He said he hopes he can add some elements of his original bill after state leaders see the positive results of recess on Georgia's children.