Skip to main content
California Department of Education Logo
California Department of Education
Official Letter
California Department of Education
Official Letter
March 29, 2024

Dear County and District Superintendents and Charter School Administrators:

Senate Bill 291 – Pupil Rights: Recess

The passage of SB 291 on October 13, 2023 enacted Education Code (EC) Section 49056. Commencing with the 2024-25 school year, EC Section 49056 requires local educational agencies (LEAs) that offer recess to provide recess of at least 30 minutes on regular instructional days and at least 15 minutes on early release days. This law only applies to those LEAs that include recess in their instructional time schedules. Moreover, LEAs have authority to determine which grade levels will be provided recess. This law applies to school districts, county offices of education, and charter schools.

Recess Offering Requirements

EC Section 49056 defines recess as a period of time during the schoolday, separate and distinct from physical education courses and meal times, when students are given supervised and unstructured time for physical activity, play, organized games, and social engagement with peers.

Beginning in the 2024-25 school year, LEAs that offer recess will be required to offer at least 30 minutes on schooldays and at least 15 minutes on early release days. Recess time does not have to be offered in a single session and therefore may be offered via multiple sessions throughout the schoolday.

LEAs should note the following implementation requirements:

  • Recess time requirements do not apply to days on which there is a field trip or other entire-school sponsored educational program.
  • Recess shall be held outdoors whenever the weather and air quality permit.
  • Recess may be held indoors if outdoor space is not sufficient.
  • Recess must comply with students’ Individual Education Programs or 504 Plans.
  • LEAs may provide a snack during recess.

Additionally, EC Section 49056 prohibits school staff members from restricting a student’s recess unless there is an immediate threat to the physical safety of the student or the physical safety of one or more of the student’s peers. If a student’s recess period is denied, school staff members shall make all reasonable efforts to resolve such threats and minimize exclusion from recess (EC Section 49056(a)(4)).

Recess Benefits

All students, especially our youngest learners, need supervised, unstructured time for physical activity, play, organized games, or social engagement with peers. Recess can help students increase their daily physical activity and contribute to achieving the American Academy of Pediatrics and the Center for Disease Control and Prevention’s recommended 60 minutes of physical activity each day. Recess is critical to children’s overall development and important to help address public health challenges. Time spent outdoors is a strong determinant of physical activity in children. Children play longer and more vigorously when programs provide play equipment, physical activity education, and space for active play. Physical activity or movement skills depend on developmentally appropriate instruction, opportunities for practice, and adult encouragement and feedback. Teachers should intentionally engage children in playground activities, both with and without equipment, during some part of the day to stimulate a variety of skills such as throwing, balancing, catching, kicking, climbing, jumping, and pulling.

Moreover, recess is not merely a break from academic learning but an essential component of the educational process that supports physical, social, and emotional development. By fostering an environment for unstructured play, students develop critical thinking, resilience, and social skills.

Lastly, LEAs offering recess must adhere to Individual Education Programs (IEP) and 504 Plans and ensure that recess is inclusive and equitable for all students.

Instructional Time Requirements

Statutory requirements have not changed with regards to the instructional time requirements. With the exception of transitional kindergarten/kindergarten, recess is not included in instructional time calculations and may only be included if students are under the immediate control and supervision of a certificated employee (EC Sections 46300(a), 46117, and 47612.5(e)(1)).

As LEAs are planning for the 2024-25 school year, the California Department of Education recommends if LEAs offer recess that they evaluate their bell schedules and instructional minute offerings to ensure compliance with the instructional time requirements and avoid any potential audit finding and penalty. Consistent with the instructional time requirements, the procedures for verifying instructional time compliance during the annual audit have not changed. LEAs may review the Instructional Time Requirements table for more information on the instructional day and minutes requirements.

If you have any questions regarding SB 291, please contact the Principal Apportionment Section by email at or by phone at 916-324-4541.



Aaron Heredia, Assistant Director
School Fiscal Services Division


Last Reviewed: Tuesday, April 16, 2024

Recently Posted in Allocations & Apportionments

  • Instructions: Application for Funding (added 29-Apr-2024)
    Consolidated Application and Reporting System data entry instructions for the 2024–25 Application for Funding data collection form.
  • Instructions: Certification of Assurances (added 29-Apr-2024)
    Consolidated Application and Reporting System data entry instructions for the 2024–25 Certification of Assurances data collection form.
  • Instructions: Homeless Policy and Requirements (added 29-Apr-2024)
    Consolidated Application and Reporting System data entry instructions for the 2023–24 Homeless Education Policy, Requirements, and Implementation data collection form.
  • Instructions: LCAP Federal Addendum Certification (added 29-Apr-2024)
    Consolidated Application and Reporting System data entry instructions for the 2024–25 Local Control and Accountability Plan (LCAP) Federal Addendum Certification data collection form.
  • Instructions: Protected Prayer Certification (added 29-Apr-2024)
    Consolidated Application and Reporting System data entry instructions for the 2024–25 Protected Prayer Certification data collection form.