For Monomoy Regional High School principal Bill Burkhead, an innovative lunch hour is “the future of education.”
In late winter of last year, MRHS began an experiment known as “Jawsome Hour.” This is a new lunch schedule between third and fourth period that lasts an hour and allows students to use that time in a variety of ways.
Principal Burkhead said “the great thing about Jawsome Hour is that is wasn’t my idea, it was a teacher’s idea.” That teacher was Deborah Donovan, who spearheaded its invention after reading about a similar lunch program in a school in Florida. From there, a committee of teachers met regularly to organize and conform the hour so that it would best encompass the school’s core values. When it came time to vote on the new schedule, it was approved by the staff at a rate of over 94 percent. Burkhead accredits this to the school’s “culture of innovation where people feel very comfortable to come up with ideas and share them.”
At first, the biggest challenge was getting students to “take advantage of the opportunity and not use it as an hour-long lunch,” said Burkhead. Eventually, however, “we found that niche in Jawsome Hour when everyone can slow down, relax, and go about things without feeling rushed or pressured.”
The school hopes this will continue to allow students as well as teachers to use Jawsome for its intended purpose. Mr. Burkhead summarized this by saying “the best educational experience for kids is when they have multiple opportunities.”
Perry Comeau, a junior at Monomoy Regional, is a classic example of how students are meeting this standard. “Jawsome Hour gives you time to eat with your friends and do something productive,” said Perry. “It’s helpful for scheduling quizzes or tests that you need to make up instead of having to miss stuff after school to take them,” he added.
Comeau also said that besides using the hour to study, take quizzes, or get a head start on homework, the time could be used “just calm yourself down if you’re feeling stressed about the day.”
Another student, Grace Boyle, was not afraid to admit, however, that even Jawsome Hour has its flaws.
“I find that a lot of teachers will request that you meet with them which can overlap with other things you had planned for the hour,” she Boyle. Despite this, Grace still said she preferred Jawsome to the old lunch schedule because it “breaks up the day and allows more time to get stuff done in school.”
Recognizing the reality of these pros and cons, Monomoy High School decided to conduct a survey to measure Jawsome Hour’s success and popularity a year after the idea was first introduced. According to Burkhead, the survey revealed that “over 96 percent” of students, teachers, and parents gave their approval of Jawsome Hour. The survey also asked students and their parents if their stress levels decreased as a result of the new schedule, to which 95 percent responded “yes.” Burkhead claims that he’s seen proof of this, saying that “the school has calmed down” because “one commodity we could all use more of, in any school, is time.”
Last summer, a group of teachers accompanied Burkhead to the National Principals Conference to present the success of the lunch hour to other high schools. Since then, Burkhead said , “we’ve had multiple schools come and visit us to try and learn from Jawsome and a couple of schools have tried to implement it now.”
This does not come as a surprise to Burkhead, who describes Jawsome as “a home run” and the primary reason why Monomoy Regional High School is “the model for the state right now.”