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A group of first-graders play on the playground of Burruss Elementary School on Monday. From left are Amiah Heyliger, Charlie Grubbs, Marin Wall, front, and Nevaeh Ervin.

MARIETTA — Marietta schools Superintendent Grant Rivera said Monday he supports Gov. Brian Kemp’s veto of a bill that would have mandated recess for public schools in the state, citing local control as the reason.

Marietta and Cobb school board policies already encourage their schools to keep students active.

Kemp vetoed House Bill 83 on Friday, saying local school boards “hold broad authority to establish recess policies for students in kindergarten through eighth grade.”

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Three first-graders play on the playground of Burruss Elementary School on Monday. Pictured from left: Kingston Kennedy, London Etchison and Aaron Wilkins.

The recess bill, Kemp said, would have stripped local decision makers of their ability to make decisions based on their day-to-day knowledge of the districts they serve.

“While I support expanded recess opportunities for Georgia’s students, I am a firm believer in local control, especially in education,” Kemp said in a veto statement. “This legislation would impose unreasonable burdens on educational leaders without meaningful justification.”

The bill, which encouraged schools to hold recess outdoors and make it 30 minutes long, was backed by public health and children’s advocates, who noted recess can help improve academic performance and reduce fidgety behavior and negative conduct in the classroom, according to Georgia Health News.

Rivera said while his district does not require recess, Marietta already incorporates a 20-minute recess period into all K-5 schedules.

Rivera said while he supports prioritizing students’ physical activity, he also supports the governor’s veto, since “what they attempted to legislate, we’re already doing.”

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First-grader Riley Rives plays on the swings on the playground of Burruss Elementary School on Monday morning.

“I feel like local school districts and local boards of education should retain local control, because we will make decisions that are most aligned to our school needs and community interests,” he said. “I appreciate that the pendulum did not shift, because if it starts with recess, it’s going to continue with other things and we don’t need micromanagement.”

Cobb Superintendent Chris Ragsdale did not respond to requests for comment by press time.

Nan Kiel, a spokeswoman for the Cobb County School District, said the policy of the Cobb school board is to encourage teachers and parents to “provide opportunities for students to engage in physical activity on a daily basis where and when (it) is appropriate.”

The board policy says students “should be given opportunities for physical activity through a range of before, during and/or after-school programs including recess, intramurals, interscholastic athletics, physical activity clubs and related community activities.”

The policy also suggests recess and other physical activity should not be withheld from students as a form of punishment.

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First-grader Finn Broeckelman plays on the playground of Burruss Elementary School on Monday morning.

Every member of the Cobb Legislative Delegation voted for the bill except Sens. Lindsey Tippins, R–west Cobb, and Horacena Tate, D–Atlanta, who were excused from the vote.

State Rep. Bert Reeves, R-Marietta, one of Kemp’s floor leaders, said from Kemp’s veto statement, it’s clear the governor is not opposed to the idea of required recess but that he simply values leaving decisions to officials who know their district best.

Rep. Ed Setzler, R-Acworth, was one of the bill’s cosponsors, but declined to comment on Kemp’s veto of the bill when reached Monday.

Follow Thomas Hartwell on Twitter at twitter.com/MDJThomas

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(1) comment

Dee Deze

I understand the concern of more control at the local level. My concern is some teachers will hold recess over the course of a year to make sure grades are better. The class will have no recess scheduled for the day. That's a big concern when it's proven kids need to move.

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