VINITA — Recess comes before lunch, students sing the ABCs while they line up and the morning moment of silence is done by class instead of over the intercom.
All are part of Hall-Halsell Elementary School's efforts to maximize time, an initiative that State Schools Superintendent Sandy Garrett is pushing for all schools in the coming year. Hall-Halsell Principal Cathy Williams has seen the efforts pay off. By analyzing and rearranging the school day over the last five years, teachers gained 30 minutes of extra instructional time every day, without ringing the last school bell any later. That's 5,250 more minutes over the course of the school year, or almost 15 additional 6-hour school days. Students use the extra time for reading practice, and Williams said it's helped nearly all the youngsters meet their reading goals. "It didn't add any time to the contract, didn't cost any money. It was just shoring up those gaps of time,” she said. The goal for the school for the coming year is to save another 10 minutes in the day and use the newfound minutes for math practice, Williams said. Teachers did not look at the changes as criticism, and in fact were the ones to raise concern about interruptions, Williams said. "They were excited to say, ‘OK, I'm going to have more time if we do these things,'” she said. "And they had great ideas.” A presentation on saving time was held at the State Department of Education's annual leadership conference this month. Education Department spokeswoman Shelly Hickman said their presentation was the most well-attended session. National Center on Time and Learning
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Play, then eatTraditionally, students would eat lunch and then go out to recess, said Cathy Williams, principal at Vinita's Hall-Halsell Elementary School. But by the end of recess, a handful of students would inevitably end up in her office because of a playground scuffle, and other students were hyper when they went back to class, she said. With recess first — followed by a break to wash their hands — students eat better because they're hungry, and they have time to cool down from running around and cool off from any skirmishes, getting them all ready to keep learning.