Today the Virginia Senate passed a rather modest bill (SB155) that would require schools to provide a program of physical activity available to all students in grades kindergarten through five consisting of at least 20 minutes per day or an average of 100 minutes per week during the regular school year. There is additional language referring to grades six through 12, but I’m not clear what it means.
Here is how the bill would amend the current law:
A BILL to amend and reenact § 22.1-253.13:1 of the Code of Virginia, relating to public schools; physical activity requirement.
Be it enacted by the General Assembly of Virginia:
1. That § 22.1-253.13:1 of the Code of Virginia is amended and reenacted as follows:
§ 22.1-253.13:1. Standard 1. Instructional programs supporting the Standards of Learning and other educational objectives. ….
D. Local school boards shall also implement the following: ….
15. A program of physical
fitnessavailable to all students with a goal of at least 150 minutes per week on average during the regular school year. Such program may include any combination of (i) physical education classes, (ii) extracurricular athletics, or(iii) other programs and physical activities deemed appropriate by the local school board. Each local school board shall incorporate into its local wellness policy a goal for the implementation ofsuch program during the regular school year.
I do not understand what the bill means in saying “available to all students in grades six through 12.” I do know that the last portion of this sentence doesn’t actually require anything. Fairfax County and other school districts know that “goal” is a legislative code word for “not required.”
The language regarding 150 minutes of physical activity per week as a goal has been in the Code of Virginia for several years and Fairfax and other school districts pay no attention to “goals” that are not actually requirements. (Actually, Fairfax even ignores some requirements–I have often mentioned that most Fairfax elementary schools don’t meet the requirements for the standard school day in the Standards of Accreditation.)
The provisions of this act would become effective beginning with the 2016-2017 school year. Virginia already requires daily recess. Recess alone could satisfy the requirements of the bill, and it is not terribly ambitious to state that recess or other physical activities should last at least 20 minutes per day. According to PilotOnline.com, “Senate Majority Leader Richard Saslaw, D-Fairfax County, asked Miller whether he would consider putting an emergency clause on the bill, an amendment to make it effective much sooner. Miller said he wouldn’t.”
Saslaw represents my district and I agree with him that the implementation would be delayed too long.