What A Bell Schedule Tell You About Your Student’s Day?

How to look at your school schedule:

The main components of a school day has start time instructional time, recess, lunch, and end of day.

Start Time

Many school districts and even whole states have started to change the school start times for middle and high school students. Studies show that elementary school children are less affected by an earlier start time, but teenagers are a different story. There is enough science that California has passed a law that has middle schools start no earlier than 8am, and high schools no earlier than 8:30am. The CDC and American Academy of Pediatrics has called insufficient sleep in adolescents a public health issue and recommends that middle and high schools start no earlier than 8:30 a.m. But as of 2017, the average start time for public high schools nationwide was 8 a.m., and 10% of schools started before 7:30 a.m.


Since 2001 average weekly recess time in U.S. schools has declined by 60 minutes. Most school kids get about 25 minutes of recess, and 75% of schools do not have a formal policy requiring daily recess. Recess provision is typically left to individual schools and even teacher discretion, which often results in its use as a discipline tool. Even within the same school district, the time allotted for recess can vary greatly. What is an ideal amount of time for recess? According to LiiNK Project, he ideal amount of recess is four 15 minute breaks in a full school day, with a nice lunch break in the middle of the school day.

Most parents don’t take too critical an eye on the daily schedule, most just note the start time and pick up time. However, your child’s schedule as a story to tell, and here is an example of a good schedule for elementary school kids that takes in to account many of the best practices. Here is a story of two schools in the same school district:

<sub><sup><a href=httpsfremontunifiedorgmsjeschedule newsschedule>Bell schedule from Mission San Jose Elementary Fremont CA 2023 2024<a><sup><sub>

In this first bell schedule, the school day starts at 8:20am, and the students get their first break after 75 minutes of seat time, and the break lasts for 10 min. The instructional times are then 75 min, 60 min, 45 min, and 65 min. All three recesses are 10 minutes long, and these kids actually also get a full hour to have lunch.

What this schedule tells us is that the kids don’t have to hold urine for more than 75 minutes of class time, and they get a total of 30 minutes of breaks a day. Given that their lunch is long enough, they should also have enough time roam around, play, have some social time during that hour for scheduled for lunch. This is one of the better schedules that I have come across.

Here is another example of a school schedule that tells a different story:

<sup><sub><a href=httpsfremontunifiedorgchadbourneschedule newsschedule>Bell schedule for Chadbourne Elementary Fremont CA 2023 2024<a><sub><sup>

At another school in the same school district, at Chadbourne Elementary, they open the playground to let the kids have some time to play 15 min before the first class time. Then, students sit for 120 min before they get their first recess of the day for 15 min. The recess is followed by 90 minutes of instruction and a 45 min lunch. After lunch, the kids in grades 1-2 sit in class for 135 min, and grades 3-5 sit in class for 90 min before the end of school. There does not seem to be another recess, but let’s hope that there is 10-15 minutes in the lunch period available for some unstructured time. If I was a parent at this school, I would probably ask some questions about why younger kids are expected to be in class without a break longer than the students in grades 3-5. I would also think that holding urine for 2 hours+ is harder for younger ones.

To compare, two schools in the same school district:

School ComparisonSchool 1School 2
Longest seat time before recess75 min 135 min
Number of recess per day31
Recess total minutes per day/ per week30 min/150 min15 min/75 min
Time for lunch60 min45 min

It is important to note that each school has its own considerations when it comes to their daily schedule, which can vary greatly unless there is a clear policy with minimum standards set by the school district. Teachers may also take away recess as a form of punishment for classroom behavior, often without notifying parents. It is the top form of shadow discipline method. Teachers often take away recess for one and all due to classroom behaviors, and this is often done without giving notice to parents. According to one report, 86 percent of teachers have decreased or taken away recess. Part of the appeal is that taking away recess can be a quick way to get some kids to comply, but in the long run, it can damage a child’s relationship with school, making it feel more like a prison that restricts access to play and bathroom, rather than a happy place of learning.

Have you looked at your student’s bell schedule? What does it tell you about your child’s regular school day?

Even better, ask your child. “How was your day at school, and what was your favorite part of the day?” Chances are good that it will be recess.

author avatar
Irene Shen



    Leave a Reply

    Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

    Other posts

    Subscribe to get notified on website updates and news.