If you ask students what their least favorite part of the school timetable is, you might hear a common complaint: the 15-minute break. Awkwardly jammed in between classes at the end of the day, the break occurs at 2:00 p.m. and pushes the end of the school day to 3:15 p.m. The break was created by the new schedule, in hopes for students to have more downtime between their classes and provide a short mental breather during the day. However, it may be falling short of this goal.
In addition to lengthening the general school day, the break’s short time constraint prevents students from doing much productive work. According to the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, some breaks (especially those in between studying) may be less helpful than previously thought. These short breaks can “overload your prefrontal cortex,” making students feel overwhelmed and less satisfied. Additionally, many students don’t have adequate time to start or complete homework assignments within 15 minutes, leaving them with the choice to scroll on their phones. Students like junior Cam Hart have often given in to that temptation. “I feel like I spend most of the break on my phone and not getting any work done or being productive,” Cam explained. Cam’s not alone—if you stroll across the school campus during the break, you might notice more than a couple phones out.
The break was meant to promote socialization between students. However, between phone usage and a lack of time, it fails to meet its goal. Although the break does provide students with an opportunity to meet up with friends and relax before class, because the KO campus is spread out between different buildings, with many of them requiring a two-minute walk from structure to structure, students often spend most of their break time texting and searching for their friends, who might have had classes in different buildings. Thus, the break only really provides a few minutes of reprieve and socialization before one has to make the trek to a different class. “I personally do not like it,” senior Maia Killory commented about the break. “It’s at this unhappy medium where it’s not long enough to meet up with your friends but it’s too long to go straight to class.” Because of this conundrum, many students opt to journey to their next class and simply wait outside the door instead of having to go through all the trouble of walking to and fro.
However, the 15-minute break isn’t just there for a small reprieve; a central goal of the new schedule was to align the Middle School and Upper School schedules, which would allow students and teachers with classes in both schools to transition easier between classes. While mostly positive, this change does not come without its drawbacks, as locker rooms become overcrowded at the end of the day due to the influx of both Middle and Upper School students. The 15-minute break is meant to slightly offset the Upper School timetable so the locker rooms don’t become jam-packed with students—therefore, the break is not something that can be easily removed. Senior Audrey Karasik proposed some solutions to this issue. “I think the fact that it’s near the end of the day is bizarre because at that point, I want to get everything done,” she said. “I would love it if we could add that 15 minutes to lunch or after school so people can get a bigger break between school and sports.”
The 15 minutes could also be applied to Community Time, which would give students enough time to, say, attend a club meeting or study for a quiz. The break time could also be spread throughout the day in between each class for three-minute intervals that allow students to walk from class to class.
However, it turns out that the 15-minute break might be the cause of Upper School and Middle School confusion in the locker rooms—since the Middle School sports begin at 2:15 and end at 3:45, if the Upper School ended at three o’clock and entered the locker rooms at 3:15, there would be no issue of overlap. Currently, though, Middle School students begin trickling into the locker rooms at 3:30, which is the time the Upper School begins entering the locker rooms. If the Upper School ended earlier, the issues surrounding locker room space would be resolved.
The 15-minute break is a hindrance to the very issue it was meant to solve. As it stands today, the break only acts as an annoyance—an inconvenience that adds nothing more than an extra sigh to a student’s schedule.