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District considering later start for FHS

Students at Farmington High School might get to set their alarm clocks a little later next fall.

FHS teachers and administrators have been talking for a year and a half about changing the school's daily schedule. But there could be more change in store than just swapping semesters for trimesters or seven-period days for five. At a special school board meeting Monday the district held its first public discussion of a proposal that would delay the start of the high school day until 8:20 a.m. Classes would end around 3 p.m.

The idea is not entirely new. Research dating back as far as 1994 suggests teenagers' physiology causes them to fall asleep later and wake up later.

Edina High School moved to a later start time in 1996 and other several nearby districts are currently considering a change.

FHS principal Ben Kusch was an administrator at Tartan High School last year when that district started talking about later start dates. Tartan made the change in the fall and so far it appears to have gone over well.

"In talking with my (former) colleagues I think it's been a real positive," Kusch said.

The idea behind the change is simple. Let teenage students sleep in and they'll be more alert when the school bell rings.

There are other reasons to make the change at FHS. That new schedule, for example. One of the options the school is considering would put students in five classes a day with an optional Zero Hour before the start of the regular school day. Adding that Zero Hour with the current start time, though, would force some students to make it to school as early as 6:30 a.m.

Kusch believes the issue of later start times would have come up even if there had never been talk of adjusting the school schedule, but he said the two changes work well together.

"In some ways it goes right along with it. In some ways it doesn't," he said.

The change does not come without challenges, though. District 192 is in better shape than some area schools when it comes to making a change because it can adjust its high school busing schedule without affecting start times for elementary or middle school students. But there are also concerns about what a later start -- and the accompanying later finish -- would mean for students who want to participate in sports or hold an after-school job.

Christine Weymouth, the district's assistant superintendent for education services said Monday the district also might consider later start times for middle school students and earlier starts for elementary school students but neither of those changes would take effect next year.

"The little kids seem to have a lot more energy early in the morning," Weymouth said.