Students advocate for mandatory recess at all Pa. schools

Regional News

WESTMORELAND COUNTY, Pa. (KDKA) — Students at a Westmoreland County middle school are calling on state lawmakers to advocate for mandatory recess.

Huston Middle School English Teacher Amanda Pagnotta says the project started with an assignment to write a persuasive letter. This lead several students to write about how important breaks in school are for mental health.

According to, taking a break improves kids’ attention, productivity, memory, social skills and reduces stress. This is also echoed by Pagnotta’s 7th-grade students.

“Anxiety’s a big one,” said 7th grader Jack Lattanzio. “All that stress on you from all that work all day.”

The ongoing COVID-19 pandemic also has some students wanting time to breathe without wearing a mask.

“I have asthma but also I can’t breathe through the day,” said 12-year-old Chloe Damico. “Just to get 30 minutes to take my mask off.”

The assignment soon turned into a mission as students made a video, started a petition, wrote letters and even met with state Representative Bob Brooks to implore their case.

Following a presentation with Representative Brooks, he wrote a bill to mandate 30 minutes of recess, study hall or break time for kids in kindergarten through 12th grade in Pennsylvania. The bill is expected to soon go to the House Education Committee.

Pagnotta says her students are learning through this project that their opinions and voices can have a big impact.

“That’s something we emphasize through English Language Arts is that words have power, and you can use your power to make this great change in your community, said Pagnotta.”

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