In the final weeks of the school year, Lincoln Elementary School students will have to adjust to a new lunchtime schedule that will not include recess.

All of the district’s elementary schools will have to make a similar change for next year, as a state audit found the schools were not meeting the requirements for teacher-student contact time.

State law requires public schools to offer 186 school days or 1,116 hours for grades one to 11. Kindergartners must have at least 465 hours and 12th graders 1,086 hours.

While the Hays schools won’t be penalized for falling short of the instructional time, they will be required to make changes for next year, Superintendent John Thissen said.

USD 489 is not likely the only schools having to make adjustments, he said.

“Not just in Hays, but across the state, the auditor is being more particular with the minutes,” he said.

Other schools might not have to take as drastic a measure as eliminating a lunchtime recess, however. Hays schools made adjustments to the elementary school days in years past.

“Over a number of years, there’s been maybe not as much money for the raises desired, so there was minutes cut out of the day here and there in the past,” Thissen said. “It’s made it very tight, and that’s where we’re at right now.”

Schools still will have morning and afternoon recess; the state allows 15-minute recess in the morning and the afternoon to count toward teacher-student contact time, but not a lunchtime recess or recess more than 15 minutes.

Lincoln Principal Elaine Rohleder sent an email to parents Thursday morning outlining the situation and the lunch schedule that will begin March 26. She was to explain it to the students during morning announcements today.

Individual classes will report to the cafeteria in five-minute increments. Students will have 20 minutes to eat lunch. At the end of that time, they will put their trays away, line up and be escorted back to their classrooms.

“We are phasing it in by grade level starting after spring break,” Rohleder said.

“We’re trying to work out the kinks before the end of the school year, so that when we start school, it’s all ready to go. The kids will know and understand how it works, so that way it’s a smooth transition,” she said.

Fifth graders will begin the schedule, with each consecutive grade starting each week through April 30.

“Then finally, we’ll have everybody phased in and have two full weeks where we’ll have everybody eating on a 20-minute schedule,” she said.

Thissen said the district’s other elementary schools might work with a schedule change yet this year, but it is up to the building administration to make that decision.

The superintendent praised Rohleder for taking the initiative to phase in the schedule now, especially with the fact she will be retiring at the end of the school year.

“Since she’s retiring, she wouldn’t have had to do anything at all. Someone new could have come in next year and have to deal with the changes. I commend her that she’s thinking ahead, trying it and helping her staff out even before the new person takes over so they have a procedure in good shape starting the next school year,” he said.