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The Great Debate: Community members debate Kayhi DDF students
Ketchikan High School’s Thomas Brooks takes his turn during the Great Debate event on Friday at the Ted Ferry Civic Center. Members of the Kayhi DDF team, from left, Madyson Traudt, Piper Cooper, Frances Barry and Chris Brown. Community debaters, from left, Jennifer Karlik, Glenn Brown, Dan Ortiz and Ben Hoffmeister. Photo by Hall Anderson

Daily News Staff Writer

Audience members during the Great Debate at the Ted Ferry Civic Center on Friday night knocked their fists on dinner tables quite a bit throughout the evening.  

They were told to do so if they agreed with something they heard during the event, where four community members debated a group from Ketchikan High School’s Debate, Drama and Forensics team.

The community debaters included Rep. Dan Ortiz, a former debate teacher; Ben Hoffmeister, district attorney; Jennifer Karlik, teacher and former Kayhi debate student; and Glenn Brown, school board member and the new borough attorney.

On the Kayhi DDF team were Piper Cooper, Frances Barry, Thomas Brooks, Madyson Traudt and Chris Brown.

David Mitchel, Kayhi DDF coach, gave the crowd a disclaimer before the Great Debate began, saying the views expressed by the community members are just for the fun of the mock debate — and for the audience’s entertainment.

“I should mention these are not their personal views,” Mitchel added.

Both the students and the community debaters had been given the debate topic — Kayhi should start school at 9 a.m. — just 24 hours before the event began, and had to prepare arguments in affirmation and negation to do well on either side of the debate.

Normally, students at the school have the option to take a zero hour, which begins at 7 a.m., but the first period at Kayhi begins at 8 a.m.

As debates are usually run, the teams had to choose heads or tails in a coin flip to decide which team would argue for which side. The students won the coin toss and chose to negate the claim of starting school at 9 a.m., leaving the community members to debate in affirmation.

The students opened the debate with a few different points. Brooks gave the opening argument of his team, saying starting school later won’t be beneficial for students, because they will stay up even later playing video games and watching TV.

A few parents in the room knocked their fists on their tables after that statement.

Brooks also said starting school later would mess up busing schedules, as the schools use the same buses.

“Actually, Mr. Glenn Brown here used to be my bus driver, so I’m pretty sure he knows all about that,” Brooks said as the audience burst in laughter and their table knocking echoed throughout the room.

Brooks went on to say starting school at 9 a.m. would cause a variety of other issues, such as the work schedules of parents and taking away family time after school, as extracurricular activities would be pushed back even later.

The cheer team, Brooks said, has practice that begins at 9 p.m. currently. If school began at 9 a.m., the school’s end time would be pushed back to 4 p.m. — leaving the cheer squad practice to run even later, till about 11 p.m. or midnight, or they’d have to have morning practice.

Brooks continued by saying waking up early has many benefits, one being it builds a routine.

“After you leave high school, just because you don’t feel like waking up at 7:00,” Brooks said before he was cut off by Ortiz standing up.

“Point of attention,” Ortiz said.

“It’s point of information, thank you,” Brooks responded, garnering some laughs.

Ortiz questioned Brooks, asking if he was not aware of the issue of students getting enough sleep being correlated to their performance levels at school. Brooks reiterated his first point — starting school later will not make students go to sleep earlier — and moved on to where he left off.

“When you get a job after high school, you don’t basically get to work around the fact that you don’t want to wake up at 7:00 in the morning,” Brooks said, as the table knocking of adults filled the room, drowning out his next few words.

Karlik, a math teacher at Kayhi, took to the microphone to deliver the opening argument in support of starting school at 9 a.m. First she said there has been several studies that show young adults have a later circadian rhythm — or internal clock.

“They have a rough time going to sleep early no matter what,” she said, adding studies also show adolescents need nine-and-a-quarter hours of sleep for optimal brain function. “Most students are not getting nine-and-a-quarter hours, and therefore their brains aren’t their best while I’m trying to teach them math.”

Several of the student debaters stood up at once to protest her point.

After the laughter tapered off, Karlik moved on to her next point, addressing the issue of bus schedules. In Juneau, she said, they changed the start time of their high school to 9:15 a.m. and their elementary school time to 8 a.m.

“They found that they needed less busing for elementary school students,” she said.

Karlik said another benefit to starting school later is discipline problems improved, after school started at a later time and students got more sleep. She added nationally, the most risky behavior of teenagers happens between 3 p.m. and 5 p.m.

If the start time was later, she said, this would eliminate an hour of that risky behavior — leaving less time for students to cause trouble while unsupervised before their parents are home from work.

After both sides presented their opening arguments, each team member had a few minutes to strengthen their claims. Chris Brown was first, bringing up a few points. His main argument was having to wake up early gives students the ability to push through waking up, even if they didn’t want to.

Glenn Brown followed his son on the opposite side, bringing up, once again, circadian rhythms. He brought up many scientific studies regarding students and amount of sleep, one of which said a delayed start is the best way to improve performance.

Barry was up next. She talked about how the community debaters had brought up ways in which starting later would be better for schools in general, but nothing specific to Kayhi. She also said changing the high school start time would affect nearly everyone in the community.

Following Barry was Ortiz, whose main argument revolved around his “worthy opponents” saying the status quo shouldn’t be altered. He added that the argument for starting school later is not a groundbreaking one; it’s been out there for a while  — and it does have its health benefits.

“My opponents, they are fine individuals,” Ortiz said, “but they are failing to take a look at science and research, which is surprising.”

On the opposing side next was Cooper, who said one size does not fit all, and just because it works in one place doesn’t mean it will work in another. She said there are other, more notable, problems at schools besides their start times.

Hoffmeister made his way up to the podium next, who reiterated why the audience was gathered there that night.

“We’re here because teenagers do not get enough sleep,” he said.

Hoffmeister said the start time of school was made arbitrarily decades ago, but now there’s science — science that his opponents “have scoffed at since the beginning of the debate.”

No winner was chosen after the debate, as it was just for entertainment — but both groups got boisterous applause from the audience; as did the dinner catered by Doug Edwards and Kayhi Culinary. Elizabeth Nelson with the First City Players was also thanked by Mitchel for helping with the drama portion of their events this season.

Before the Great Debate kicked off, a few other DDF students were able to showcase their talents during the fundraiser. Brooks, Traudt, Raevyn Goodson and Barry performed a reader’s theater piece; Arick Mattson performed his award-winning humorous interpretation; and Cooper gave an original oration titled, “You should be alone.”

“Despite the snow, we had an impressive showing of support from the community, and the feedback was all very positive,” Mitchel said in an email to the Daily News. “I think fundraisers that get to show off the talents of those participating in the activity make the most sense. So it was part a fundraiser and part an opportunity to showcase our DDF talents.”

The event is leading up to the DDF home meet on Friday and Saturday at Kayhi, which the group still needs local judges for. To sign up to judge for the event, which will include teams from all around Southeast Alaska, visit www.kgbsd.org/ddf.