Find Best Meal or Session Break Times
Schools often have a designated staff meal break, or divide an interview event into various sessions. These can have a significant impact on solution quality. Few are aware of this fact, because traditional scheduling methods do not provide the facilities to analyse this issue effectively, unlike EdvalPTN.
The specific makeup of the interview requests for a particular school directly contributes to meal time impact. The more parents are permitted to have a lot of interviews, or have a lot of children – the parent schedules will require longer durations to satisfy them all sequentially, in an optimum manner.
Time waste and dropped interviews occur when parents with several interviews find they can only achieve some prior to the meal break, and some after the meal break. This means they are forced to wait over the meal break, or are forced to drop interviews on one side or the other. Adjusting meal breaks to best suit the parent requests ensures less parents with multiple interviews are forced to span breaks.
Another consideration is teachers with relatively fewer interview requests. Often these teachers are capable of satisfying all their interviews early and then departing the event much earlier than other teachers. There is a correlation between the number of requests for these light loaded teachers, and the number of available interview slots in any one session. 
A teacher with only twelve interview requests in total may be able to satisfy these sequentially in an ideal schedule, but if there are only ten available interview slots prior to the staff break, this teacher is effectively forced to accept the break, only to have two more interviews to finish their commitment. 
Identifying the best meal break time may allocate twelve slots before the break as this allows this teacher to conclude their event time an hour earlier. In reality all teachers must be considered, along with other factors such as when staff would actually like to have their meal break, or what fits in with catering or other factors. Despite the complexities however, it is very easy to determine a good break start time.
Consider the freedom within the solution. When is the earliest time a break could realistically occur? When is the latest? Should there only be one break or session, or perhaps two?
Place the break at the time that best suits the school administration, or a time that is likely to be acceptable to participants. Process an entire event schedule using the EdvalPTN, either using actual preferences already recorded, or via the event simulator. Note the solution quality metrics.
Move the break time earlier or later by perhaps half an hour, and reprocess the solution, again examining the EdvalPTN solution quality statistics.
When comparing solutions, consider
  • How many interviews do teachers on light loads have, and what is the current interview density. Is a too-early meal time forcing them to continue across the break when a later break time may have them all finished earlier?


    How many parents have requested a lot of interviews. How does the placement of the meal break affect teachers, such as what are the congestion levels over the break period itself? Can you adjust the break to minimise this parent time waste?


  • Consider all the factors and find an ideal balance that suits teachers best, suits parents best, and suits the school best. Sometimes moving a break time by just ten minutes can have a big impact.