Now that the new school year has started, I want to comment on the very early time that high schools in Rio Rancho start classes.

At Cleveland High School, instruction starts at 7:20 a.m. I would like to explain why this is different than showing up for work at an early time the way adults often do.

Any research you may do will overwhelmingly show that the optimum start time for high schools is 8:30. It is not that teenagers stay up too late, but rather that the typical teenager’s brain starts melatonin production around 11 at night and doesn’t finish that process until about 6 a.m. If a student has to get up when an adult does, 5 a.m. or earlier, they will not be able to function properly in a learning environment.

Earlier this year the governor and legislature approved pay raises for teachers across New Mexico, but this does nothing to help them have mentally alert students interested in learning. Other states have paid for later start times and the reward has been more interested students, better performance from those students, even in athletics, and higher graduation rates.

Why would the legislature approve pay raises for teachers but do nothing to help those teachers with the mental alertness of the students learning from them?

My suggestion is to pay for the cost of putting the state school system on a mandated start time of no earlier than 8:30 as a five-year experiment, to see the change in student performance. This is a huge opportunity to move New Mexico up the ranks in education, by reducing dropout rates, increasing excellence in performance and graduation rates.

I would like to know how other parents feel about this idea. How do New Mexico’s Public Education secretary and others feel about the feasibility and benefits of implementing this idea? It would be interesting to hear others write about this in the Rio Rancho Observer, especially in support of financing this great idea.

Tom Dixon

Rio Rancho