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Lunch Before Recess?

Dear NBES Families,


This past year our school implemented a “Recess Before Lunch” initiative.  Research suggested that we should see the following benefits from this approach:

  • waste less food
  • students calmer and ready to get to work immediately, showing increased attention and ability to learn
  • better lunchroom, playground, and classroom behaviors, as children are focused on lunch rather than the playground and they return to class feeling more full and settled
  • decreased number of nurse visits
  • less lunchroom supervision required
  • decreased discipline referrals from the playground, cafeteria, and hallways


Below is the data that we collected throughout the year to gauge the effectiveness of this change, as well as comparison data from school year 2017-18, when we had students eating lunch first, then going out to recess. 


Discipline Referrals by Location:


School Year













This data reflects the referrals collected during the lunch timeframe, as well the transition of 5th grade back to their classrooms after lunch (11:15am-1:30pm).  The number of students referred from year to year was virtually identical, and the number of referring staff remained constant.


School Year

Total Referrals

Students Referred

Staff Referring










Data on Visits to the Nurse’s Office:


Health Room Data during Lunch & Lunch Recesses

Visits between 11:00am-1:30pm                      (September-April)






Members of the Parent Ad-Hoc Committee analyzed and discussed the implications of the data above during their May 15th meeting.  After much discussion about the lack of evidence supporting the continuation of the initiative, the Parent Ad-Hoc Committee members concluded that teachers should make the final call on whether or not Recess Before Lunch continue. 


During the Learning Improvement Team’s May meeting, teachers reported the following:


  • playground location makes the entire initiative a challenge; time is lost in transition
  • 1/3 of class is still eating at lunch pickup time
  • no noticeable difference in classroom on-task time since making this change
  • it is a challenge to settle students down when returning to class; class time is lost in calm down activities


Teachers were also asked to rate the Recess Before Lunch change on a scale of 1-5, where 1 represents the program having a negative impact and that we should not do it again and 5 having a positive impact and we should continue this approach.  The average score from teachers was a “3”. 


Due to the fact that we have not seen the positive results that research suggested, coupled with input from support staff and 3rd-5th grade students, North Bend Elementary will return to a schedule where students eat lunch in the cafeteria for 20 (or more) minutes, after which they can be dismissed for up to 15 minutes of recess time.  We will keep the extended lunchroom time that went into effect this past school year with the hope that this allows students sufficient time to socialize while consuming their lunches.  With the change in schedule, students who eat at a more leisurely pace will now be able to remain in the lunchroom for up to 30 minutes, which adds even more eating time for those who need it. 


Thank you to the staff, parents and students who helped provide valuable feedback and insight throughout the school year. 






Stephanie Shepherd

Principal, North Bend Elementary