MHS early release policy is a keeper

Any changes should serve students

By The Mercury

Probably a few of the Manhattan High School seniors who take advantage of the school’s early release policy each year have little to show for their time off. Those probably would have been wiser — and learned more — by staying in school.

The high school’s early release/late arrival policy, like most policies, is subject to abuse and miscalculation. But the policy does more than enough good to be continued.

According to the policy, second-semester seniors who are on track to graduate and who have their parents’ permission can take up to two class periods off each day. Depending on what courses they still need to graduate and when they are offered, students can start two hours late, leave school two hours early, or take an hour off at both the beginning and the end of the day. The policy allows qualifying students to take advantage of opportunities unavailable at MHS, and yes, it’s partly a reward for the academic progress those students made their first seven semesters.

Our sense is that the students who squander their early release opportunities are in the minority — a small minority. Much more common are the seniors who get a head start on college, often by taking a class at Kansas State University or a community college, or who get jobs or work extended hours to save money for postsecondary school that is increasingly expensive. These students are to be applauded for their initiative, and future MHS students should be encouraged to follow in their footsteps.

In its present review of the policy, Manhattan-Ogden Board of Education members’ concern about students who waste early release time is merited. But that shouldn’t lead to dramatic changes.

It’s worth noting that a recent parent survey showed overwhelming — 86.3 percent — support for continuing the early release policy. It’s also worth noting that when they enroll for senior classes in the spring of their junior years, students who don’t meet the criteria are ineligible for early release. Also, if they are eligible at that time but fail a class and fall off graduation track in the first semester of their senior year, they become ineligible. What’s more, parents must sign off on early release for their children.

Before early release is granted, the pitfalls should be made clear to parents, perhaps in a meeting with an academic counselor. But district officials — including board members — shouldn’t substitute their judgment for that of the parents who approve of early release for their children.

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