AUGUSTA — A bill requiring Maine public schools to provide at least 30 minutes of physical activity each school day for students in kindergarten through fifth grade has won an initial round of votes in the state Senate.

By a 24-10 vote, senators gave initial approval to the bill sponsored by Sen. Rebecca Millett, D-Cape Elizabeth.

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Under the present law, teachers and school administrators may take away recess as a disciplinary action. The bill would require a teacher to provide students with a substitute option for physical activity if the student’s recess is taken away.

“We need to be providing more opportunity for students to learn healthy habits,” Millett said in a statement. “Taking away the opportunity to exercise does nothing to help our students, and in fact can send the wrong message about their health.”

At a public hearing, education groups were tepid about the plan, while health interests were enthusiastic. In written testimony, the Maine School Boards Association opposed the bill, saying it didn’t need to be a mandate.

The bill faces further House and Senate votes.