Students at David Thompson Secondary School (DTSS) will be more in control of what and how they learn when they head back to school in the fall.

Principal Darren Danyluk said that there will be no formal lessons offered in the second period from Monday to Thursday but that students will be responsible for showing up – in whichever supervised room they choose – and using their time wisely.

“It’s not free time. It’s not a spare period,” he said. “It’s time for them to manage their learning… where they can drive the bus and decide how they want to use that curricular time.”

Whether students use those periods to ask their teachers for extra help with their math homework, to catch up on reading for their English classes, to work on group projects or to cram for tests, they will have four 40-minute time slots each week to focus on whatever they choose.

The current schedule at DTSS was in place before Mr. Danyluk arrived at the school 21 years ago.

“It worked, and it still works,” he said, but he’s been hearing that students are getting increasingly busy and overwhelmed. With sports, dance, theatre, skiing and all their other pursuits, he said students are wanting extra hours in their days.

“We want them to be able to manage their time and their commitments,” he said. “We are trying to create autonomous students… You can only be autonomous when you’re given that latitude to make the judgement for yourself.”

DTSS teachers won’t offer prepared lessons during the flexible periods. Instead they will be in their classrooms and available to assist students, answer questions and provide whatever supports the students need.

Making up for missed exams, getting assistance with homework and other demands that can fall at lunchtime or after school can now be scheduled during the open periods to keep students on track for a productive and balanced year.

“Time management is a huge feature for life after high school,” Mr. Danyluk said. “We’re over-scheduling our kids and being their external brain. You’ve got to be here. You’ve got to be there. We’re driving them here, driving them there. They’re just following orders, and they’re not really engaging in designing their own week, their own plan. Whereas with post-secondary, it’s all on you, so you can Netflix all day long.”

Mr. Danyluk has taken field trips to three others schools to see how they’ve implemented similar schedules and has been impressed with how well it’s working for them.

“I didn’t find a single student who wanted to revert and lose this,” he said.

The teachers he spoke with were also pleased with the “great gains” the students have been making.

Mr. Danyluk has heard from parents who have “good critical questions” about the new schedule and how the school plans to hold students accountable for their attendance and efforts. He encourages parents to reach out to him at [email protected] or 250-342-9213 extension 4517 with any concerns they may have.