Pushing back the start of the school day to give more high schoolers more time to sleep has been an elusive goal for the St. Paul Public Schools and is expected to remain so again in 2017-18.
But the board, at the urging of Member Steve Marchese, directed district administrators to craft a proposal for action in November that could find it rolling back start times for many students in 2018-19.
Whether that move would include all middle school and high school students, as Marchese proposed at a committee meeting Tuesday night, is not certain. But by calling for action in the coming weeks, the board turned aside a recommendation from the administration to instead reconvene a task force to explore changes and gather community input early next year.
For three years, St. Paul has struggled to find ways to make the most of research showing that teens benefit from being able to sleep longer. Again on Tuesday, board members were reminded that any move to push back secondary start times from 7:30 to 8:30 a.m. would require having more K-5 students begin their day at 7:30 a.m. — a major concern for safety-minded parents.
In 2014 and 2015, a divided board eventually decided against sweeping changes.
But the district has piloted late starts at Johnson High on the East Side and Creative Arts Secondary downtown by partnering with Metro Transit to give students Go-To cards they can use to ride Metro Transit buses at any time.
Early signs were that use of the cards helped boost involvement in extracurricular activities and alertness in the morning. In 2015-16, Johnson High’s first year of the 8:30 a.m. starts, the school saw increases in the percentages of students testing as proficient in math and reading, and a slight decline in science.
But Metro Transit has said it is unable to transport more district high schoolers now, meaning the district would have to do it via its yellow buses — a move that could cost it an additional $2 million or more.
The board is expected to revisit the issue at a committee meeting on Nov. 1 and then vote on Nov. 15.