Greetings from Pomfret School! There are few places more beautiful than northeastern Connecticut in autumn, and as our landscape transforms into hues of rich gold and rust, I am writing with an exciting update about our daily schedule.
As you have likely already heard, we will be running a trial daily schedule during the 2011-2012 winter term. The process of reviewing our daily schedule actually began over four years ago, when a number of faculty members formed a committee to address some of their concerns with the current schedule, including, but not limited to, a lack of consistent class meeting times, pace, and a need for more contact time with students and faculty during the academic day. In an attempt to revisit these same issues, we formed a Schedule Committee last spring and gathered input about our current schedule from both students and faculty.
Today we unveiled a new trial schedule to the entire community at School Meeting. We will implement this new schedule during the winter term as a test. Our goal is to spend the duration of the winter term gathering data and feedback to determine if the changes we have made will have a positive impact on students.
You’ll see that the new schedule incorporates a consistent 8:30 a.m. start on all class days. A number of independent schools in recent years have implemented a delayed school start time in response to growing research that supports the theory that sleep deprivation contributes to poor attention, mood, and memory difficulties in adolescents. Schools that have experimented with an 8:30 a.m. start time report that even an extra half-an-hour of sleep each day has a positive impact on alertness, health and academic performance.
Brian Rice, chair of the mathematics department and a statistician, and science teachers Sharon Geyer and Bill Martin, have agreed to chair a community-wide sleep study this fall and winter to study the impact of a delayed school start time here at Pomfret. In addition to surveying students and faculty about their sleep habits, they will also be gathering data about attendance and tardiness, health center visits, and breakfast attendance—all in an effort to determine if this change in our daily schedule has the same impact on Pomfret students that other schools have experienced.
In addition to the delayed start time, our trial schedule also includes three blocks of designated meeting times for students to connect either with other students (group study sessions and student organizations) and for students to connect with members of the faculty for extra help, advising, and planning. We have retained four community meetings times each week, which have long been a hallmark of the Pomfret experience.
We have also managed to create a schedule that guarantees that each class will meet consistently four times each week. In our current schedule, with its pattern of class Saturdays and non-class Saturdays, some blocks only meet three times in a given week. Our teachers feel that more consistent contact time in the classroom is a top priority. Although we have had to shorten class blocks by five minutes each in order to accommodate the later start time, the loss of class time is minimal over the course of the term—and Pomfret will still be above the norm of class minutes offered at peers schools. Furthermore, by ensuring that each block will meet four times each week, we will actually gain class meetings over the course of the term.
Our new schedule continues to offer a six-day-a-week program on those Saturdays when we normally would have classes. Because classes will meet consistently across five days, we have freed up the sixth day—Saturday—to offer meaningful co-curricular programming. Our “class Saturdays” now offer us the time to engage speakers to address the community, run workshops, practice community service, etc. Students will be expected to attend these events, just as they are now expected to attend classes.
Throughout all of our discussions, as a committee and as a faculty, we have put the student experience at the center of the reform process, and we believe we have created a schedule that better suits the needs of our students. The trial period is our way of assessing whether indeed that belief holds true.
If you are interested in learning more about our new schedule or the upcoming trial period, please join us on the Saturday of Family Weekend for an information session and panel discussion. There will also be information posted on our website (link) about the trial schedule, including the Saturday programming dates and events.
On behalf of the Schedule Committee, I sincerely hope you share in our excitement about this experiment.
Kate Caspar, Academic Dean
Patrick Andren, Chair of the History Department
Ellen Browne, Mathematics Teacher
Deb Davis, Chair of the Religion Department
Brian Geyer, Science Teacher
Don Gibbs, Chair of the Science Department
Kate Gillin, History Teacher
Ellee Hayes, English Teacher
Jessica Hoppin, Registrar
Chip Lamb, Chair of the Fine Arts Department
Josh Lake, Science Teacher
Anne Miller, Director of Student Activities
Pam Mulcahy, Dean of Faculty
Tim Richards, Head of School, ex officio
Waddy Rowe, English teacher