St. Paul teens are nearing the opportunity to sleep longer by starting school an hour later.
A long-awaited move to push back middle- and high-school start times to 8:30 a.m. finally kicks in this fall in the state’s second-largest school district.
Research shows secondary students can benefit emotionally and academically when they get more sleep. But St. Paul’s plans also call for thousands of elementary students to shift to earlier 7:30 a.m. starts — causing many parents to worry about how it will affect child care and the safety of students who have to wait for buses in the early morning hours.
For elementary students, the earlier starts mean earlier departures, too. A parent survey shows that 436 students who do not require after-school care now will need it in the fall, according to an update presented to school board members Tuesday.
Officials say the district will continue to get the word out to parents about after-school options, which include a program, Rec Check, offered at 20 city recreation centers. The school district provides bus transportation for that program.
The board presentation also included an update from an “early walkers subcommittee” charged with easing safety concerns.
Tom Burr, the district’s transportation director, said police data show no issues with incidents between 6:15 to 7:15 a.m. Walks to bus stops average less than a block, he said, and he has heard from bus drivers that it is common for parents to be with children at the stops.
School choice deadline
Tuesday’s updates were delivered a week before the Feb. 28 deadline for parents to say where they would like to send their children in 2019-20.
St. Paul began weighing start time changes in 2014, but the proposals snagged over transportation issues and parental opposition.
In October 2017, the board finally signaled that it would push back secondary student start times. But it also agreed to put off the move until the 2019-20 school year to give the district and community enough time to adjust. The proposed new start times for each school then were released in June 2018.
The district has since stood firm on that schedule. The only change in the school selection guide available to families is the inclusion of an E-STEM middle school in Woodbury near the border of St. Paul.
The district bought the school last year for $15 million as an alternative to plans to build a new East Side middle school.
The change in elementary school start times from 8:30 a.m. to 7:30 a.m. involves 21 schools, and it was driven by the need for the district to maintain a three-tier busing schedule of 7:30 a.m., 8:30 a.m. and 9:30 a.m.
Three of the current 8:30 a.m. schools — Bruce F. Vento Elementary, Capitol Hill Gifted and Talented Magnet and Riverview West Side School of Excellence — will shift to 9:30 a.m. starts.