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What You Need To Know About Your Planning & Lunch Times

Teachers ask more questions about planning and preparation periods than any other subject. Below, you will find answers to some of those questions.

Teachers ask more questions about planning and preparation periods than any other subject.  Below, you will find answers to some of those questions.

Planning and Preparation Periods

By law, how much time am I given for planning and preparation?
Section 21.404 of the Texas Education Code states that each classroom teacher is entitled to at least 450 minutes within each two-week period for instructional preparation, including parent/teacher conferences, evaluating students’ work, and planning.  A planning and preparation period may not be less than 45 minutes within the instructional day.

Can I be assigned other duties such as watching other classes during planning time? 
No. The law is clear that planning and preparation time is only for instructional preparation, individual planning, meeting with parents and grading students’ work.  However, if you are provided with more than 450 minutes for planning within a 10-day period, the time over the minimum requirement can be used by the principal for other activities.

Can we be asked to meet with parents during our planning time? 
Yes, that is one of the purposes of this time.  The time is also for reviewing students’ homework and for YOUR planning and preparation.

Can I be asked to attend team or department meetings during this time?

No, not unless you are provided more than 450 minutes every two weeks.  The Commissioner of Education has ruled that “planning” means individual planning.  Team or grade level meetings and PLCs are not considered self-directed planning. A classroom teacher may not be required to participate in any other activity not provided for in the law (instructional preparation, including parent/teacher conferences, evaluating students’ work, and planning).  You CAN be required to attend meetings during the day if you receive more than 450 minutes of planning time every two weeks.

We are primary teachers who receive just 45-minutes for planning, but some of this time is taken waiting for parents to pick up their children.  Is this okay?

No.  The planning and preparation period must be at least 45 minutes and supervising students is not one of the ways time can be spent during planning and preparation time.

What if my preparation time goes past the STUDENTS’ regular school day? 

Preparation and planning periods must be scheduled within the time that students are being instructed in regularly-scheduled classes. (There are a few exceptions for alternative schools.)  A district may not extend the school day solely to provide time for the required 45-minute planning and preparation period.

Can we leave campus during this time?
There is no law on this subject.  Therefore, rules and procedures regarding leaving during a planning period are left up to the district and campus.

District Of Innovation Exemptions:

Please note that some districts have exempted themselves from the planning and preparation law using the District of Innovation process.  This is not to say that teachers in those districts are not receiving planning time, but the rules that govern that can be found in the district’s Innovation plan.  You can check all District of Innovation plans approved by the state by clicking here.


Duty-Free Lunch

Section 21.405 of the Texas Education Code says that each classroom teacher and full-time librarian is entitled to a 30-minute lunch free from all duties and responsibilities connected with the instruction or supervision of students unless the district is faced with such dire situations as personnel shortage, extreme economic conditions, or unavoidable or unforeseen circumstances.  In any event, a teacher may not be required to supervise students during the duty-free lunch more than one time per week.

The Commissioner of Education by rule has clarified what constitutes a personnel shortage, extreme economic condition or an unavoidable or unforeseen circumstance.

      • A personnel shortage exists when, despite reasonable efforts of a school district to use non-teaching personnel or community volunteers to supervise students during lunch, there is no other personnel available.
      • Extreme economic conditions exist when the percentage of a local tax increase, including any amounts necessary to implement this section, would place the district in jeopardy with respect to a potential tax roll-back election as provided in the Texas Property Tax Code §26.08.
      • Unavoidable or unforeseen circumstances exist when, due to illness, epidemic, or natural or man-made disaster, a school district is unable to find an individual to supervise students during lunch.

In practice, no teacher or librarian in this area should be denied a thirty-minute duty-free lunch.

Can we be assigned lunchroom duty if we are given a 30-minute duty-free time?   
Yes,  as long as the teacher still receives a 30-minute duty-free lunch every day.

Can we leave school for lunch? 
Yes.  According to an Attorney General opinion, employees can leave the campus during lunch.  However, the administration has the right to ask employees to sign out when they are leaving and sign in when they return.

What about employees other than teachers and librarians?         
Believe it or not, no law guarantees other employees a duty-free lunch.  However, most districts provide one to most employees.  In some circumstances, hourly employees, such as custodians, maintenance employees, and others, may have to work 8 1/2 hours, instead of 8 hours, to get their lunch.  This means that they are not paid for their lunchtime and that if they are asked to work during their lunchtime (while they are not being paid), they are entitled to full compensation for that complete lunch, even if what they were asked to do only takes several minutes.

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