The St. Paul school board appears resigned to putting on hold, for now, its hopes of having more high school students starting the school day an hour later.
A majority of board members said Tuesday night they were prepared to continue with a current arrangement that has only Johnson Aerospace & Engineering High School students reaping the benefits of sleep research by starting classes at 8:30 a.m. -- instead of 7:30 a.m.
The board has been forced to pull back on plans to expand the late-start efforts after Metro Transit, which has been busing a majority of Johnson High students this year, told surprised district administrators in September that it lacked the bus storage capacity to transport more students in 2016-17.
That setback brought a new level of frustration to district deliberations on the start-times issue. A year ago, a divided board decided against moving all high schools to 8:30 a.m. starts, and eventually approved the Johnson High pilot project after Metro Transit offered to help.
The district has wanted to seize on research that shows student performance rises, and absences and tardiness decline, when teens get more sleep.
Last month, Superintendent Valeria Silva recommended that the district keep start times as they are now, and that it continue to work with Metro Transit in hopes of revisiting expansion plans later.
Since then, however, the adminstration also gave the board two other options to consider: Moving one more high school to a later start and five elementary schools to earlier 7:45 a.m. starts or shifting three additional high schools to later starts and 10 elementary schools to the earlier 7:45 a.m. starts.
Students at those high schools would be transported by the district's yellow buses.
Board Members Anne Carroll and Chue Vue said that the plans left too many unanswered questions about potential impacts to the district's youngest students and their families.
Board Member Louise Seeba countered by saying that a shift to later start times was the right and responsible thing to do.
"We are ignoring the one thing that has the science behind it," she said.
The board is expected to take final action on 2016-17 start times at its meeting next Tuesday.