OLD TOWN, Maine (NEWS CENTER) – Proposed legislation to mandate 30 minutes of physical activity in schools across the state is facing opposition from educators.
The Department of Education has spoken out against the legislation, saying it undermines local decision making.
Proponents say it is necessary to set a standard across the board and combat a serious problem facing kids in Maine and across the country.
"This bill is trying to deal with a major problem now for young kids. They're not physically active enough,” Sen. Geoffrey Gratwick, one of the bill’s sponsors, said.
“I understand that people are worried about kids and their health," Old Town Elementary School principal Dr. Jeanna Tuell said. "We don't really need someone to legislate what we think is common sense number one and that you know that we are going to use our professional discretion on what we think is best for kids."
Tuell said the school’s teachers pay special attention to keeping kids active. They call them "brain breaks."
"So we can get all that exercise out of us,” second grader Evan Reardon said.
His teacher Barbara O’Malley encourages a number of physical activities that break up the everyday school work. She even does yoga with her students.
"We know that in order for them to focus they've got to move and you get just as much out of them or more,” O’Malley said.
Such activities have been proven to boost learning among kids.
However, Tuell said if the Act To Promote Physical Activity for Schoolchildren were to become law, it would be yet another documentation requirement and something that D.O.E. would have to oversee as well.
Students at Old Town Elementary have a 25-minute recess, a morning break every day, as well as physical education twice a week.
“It doesn’t go far enough,” Gratwick said.
He hopes that the act will bring greater attention to physical fitness starting at a young age.
The CDC recommends at least an hour of exercise for elementary-aged kids a day. Teachers like O’Malley are already working to achieve that and more for their students—something she said has paid off.
"I don't have a lot of discipline issues in my classroom and really I think it boils down to building that relationship in a lot of different ways and this is one of them,” O’Malley said.
The Committee on Education and Cultural Affairs is set to vote on the issue in the next couple weeks.