Goodman: Ah, free time! School recess should be mandatory in Florida schools, not just folded into P.E.

Limestone Creek elementary school students play during recess on the school’s playground, February 24, 2016. Damon Higgins / The Palm Beach Post

We’re glad to see that in the Florida Senate, at least one issue has bipartisan support: school recess.

Striking a blow for a saner school day, the Senate on Tuesday unanimously passed a bill requiring 20 minutes of free-play recess in all Florida public elementary schools, kindergarten through fifth grade.

It’s about time. At present, only 11 of Florida’s 67 school districts have school-board approved recess policies, according to a Senate analysis. In Palm Beach County, the public schools’ Wellness Promotion guidelines “encourage” recess, but it’s not required.

Frankly, I couldn’t get through a work day without taking some time to loosen up after sitting at a desk for hours. I can’t imagine how children are expected to concentrate for so long without a break, let alone perform well for the standardized testing that’s deemed so all-important.

And I can’t imagine what elementary school would have been like without our morning and afternoon outdoor games of catch, or tag, or just hanging out.

As Post Editorial Page Editor Rick Christie wrote last year:

Here are some of the life lessons learned on the playground: rules of competition, diplomacy, negotiation, social networking, and here’s a biggie, just learning to decompress.

That last one is really a lost art these days.

Confirming common sense, the American Academy of Pediatrics found that well-supervised recess is needed for a child’s social, emotional, physical and cognitive development. And both the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Society of Health and Physical Educators of America recommend all elementary school children get a minimum of one daily recess period of at least 20 minutes — in addition to physical education and classroom activity — according to the Senate analysis.

But this bill is by no means assured of passage. The Florida House doesn’t want mandatory recess. Instead, it passed a watered-down bill to combine recess and physical education classes as part of the state’s 150-minute per week requirement for P.E. That would mean less recess time for more than 400,000 fourth- and fifth-graders, according to proposal’s critics.

Last year, a bill similar to the Senate plan failed when a single senator kept it from being heard in committee because he didn’t want the state to place another mandate on school districts. Ridiculous. If the Legislature were to require schools to provide students with fresh air, would you oppose that because it’s a “mandate”?

Instead of an oppressive mandate from Tallahassee, the Senate bill, sponsored by Sen. Anitere Flores, a Miami Republican, should be seen as a corrective to waves of previous state measures that turned Florida school kids into stressed-out test-taking machines.

Flores disagrees with the House proposal. “Recess should not be in competition with other things,” she told Sunshine State News. “It should be able to stand on its own. It should be able to give students and teachers… a mental break at some point in the day.”

We agree.

How about you? …