Kim Evelti’s 45-minute geometry class was always a challenge to teach. If the math teacher wanted do classroom projects—studying angles on buildings, for example, or forming geometrical shapes out of paper—she had to squeeze in the activity, plus time for discussions and assignments, in less than an hour.
“It was hard for me to even fit that in to a 45-minute period, let alone fit it into the period, come back together, talk about it, write something down in your note book and then try a problem that applies to it,” she said.
So, Evelti, who is also the assistant academic dean for program development at The Williston Northampton School, was said she was excited when asked to head the Daily Schedule Task Force last year. The task force offered an opportunity to look at new models for the academic day, she said.
“I had played with different schedule models for fun,” Evelti said. “I had had some days about longer periods with fewer periods over the day, longer transitions, shorter homework assignments—just different thoughts and crazy ideas.”
Led by Evelti, the task force, a group of nine faculty members from various disciplines, spent the next six months identifying schedule goals, researching other schools, developing models, and gathering feedback from the Williston community.
What would emerge was a series of small, but significant, changes, all designed to give students and faculty better options during the day. Among the changes: a seventh period, standardized 60-minute classes, free periods during the day, and departmental meeting times. The schedule also moved from a four-week to a two-week rotation on a green and blue scheme.
View the new schedule at On the Quad.
The task force had been assembled by Head of School Robert W. Hill III, who asked the nine members to pay particular close attention to classroom time. In an email, Hill said the former schedule “constrained rather than liberated students in terms of choice and course selection.”
“That, along with my belief that we needed more time for collaboration—among faculty and among students—informed the pursuit of the new schedule,” he wrote.
In order to give equal time to all classes, the first period of the day was added into a regular rotation. The reshuffling also sprinkled throughout the day what used to be a big block of time in the afternoon, while preserving space for activities at the end of the day, and adding in new options such as ensemble periods for the Upper and Middle Schools.
“The same amount of free time exists, it’s just been redistributed,” Evelti said. “And we hope redistributed in a way that will make that time more productive.”
By changing periods from 45 and 70 minutes to an hour, Evelti said that the task force hoped to provide teachers with enough breathing room to dive into their topics, while also eliminating some of the time students spent walking across campus to their next class.
Of all the changes, English teacher Matt Sawyer said he was most excited about the 60-minute blocks. He planned to use the extra time to introduce more reflective writing, which he said seemed to improve student focus and the tone of the class.
“I believe that the 60 minute blocks will bolster this practice,” Sawyer wrote in an email. “My students will have time to write and discuss and read and reflect all in one class period.”
Lynn Magovern, English Department Head and a member of the task force, said she was also looking forward to the hour-long classes, but was particularly excited about departmental meeting times. Now, instead of occasional once-a-month meetings, the English Department will be meeting every C period on Tuesday during blue week.
“I’m already seeing a couple things we can do just in terms of getting the individual teachers together,” Magovern said, adding that teachers might use the time not only for department lessons, but for mini-master classes, visits to other classrooms, and as an opportunity to meet with students.
“It’ll be different,” she said of the schedule. “But I think we’ll get used to it and I think the advantages will show themselves pretty quickly.”