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Editorial: Keep advisory, start school later

Red Wing High School is deep into discussions about improving "climate," i.e. addressing behavioral problems.

The School Board heard from Principal Todd Herber and teacher Scott Bender at its May 21 meeting. Among the bigger proposed changes: drop the advisory period — that half-hour, mid-morning "class" when students have 25-30 minutes to complete homework, go to the library, attend a club meeting, take a test, talk with a teacher, etc.

The proposal prompted nearly a dozen students and recent grads to challenge that solution, arguing before the board on June 4 that those 25 minutes are too valuable to lose.

Good discussion. Productive behavior. People can be especially satisfied to see these young adults putting their various civics and speech lessons into action.

Despite all this public dialogue, however, one seemingly obvious solution hasn't received public debate: Start school a half-hour later and shift advisory to the end of the day.

Here are a few of the potential benefits:

One, students could get more sleep.

Study after study has shown that insufficient sleep in adolescents is associated with a wide variety of adverse outcomes. These range from poor mental and physical health to lower academic grades and, yes, behavioral problems.

Two, students would retain advisory.

Those teens who want to take advantage of various activities could do so. Those students who need academic help could still get it during the school day. Those who need time to make up a test could do so but not miss class time.

Three, those coaches/teachers and athletes who need to leave early for sporting events would miss advisory time and less actual classroom instruction.

Yes, a later start would require tweaking of the bus schedule and drop-off times. Yes, union contracts might need some adjusting. Yes, a later start is possible, it just requires conversation and planning.

We urge administrators and faculty to listen to students and also consider supporting a later start to the school day. Before saying "no," they should at least sleep on it.

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