Researchers are pointing to the benefits of high schoolers beginning the school day later, and the St. Paul school district is listening -- first to the findings and next to parents and community members.
The district is putting in play for the 2015-16 school year the possibility of pushing back high-school and middle-school start times from 7:30 to 8:30 a.m.
Officials plan to gather input from a wide range of people, from teachers and coaches to students and parents to daycare providers and parks employees, in hopes of presenting to the school board in October a recommendation on school start times for the 2015-16 school year.
No changes are planned for 2014-15.
The district is weighing whether to follow a growing number of school systems that have decided to delay high school start times in the belief that students perform better if they sleep longer.
In March, the University of Minnesota released a study about teens and sleep, basing some of its research on developments in the South Washington County School District. Test scores have risen in the district's high schools since officials decided in 2009 to push back high school start times from 7:35 to 8:35 a.m.
For teens, the idea of going to bed early to wake up early doesn't work, a university researcher has said, because their bodies don't experience a natural shift into sleep until 11 p.m. -- no matter when the school start time might be. So the later the start, the better the chance of having a student ready to learn.
In St. Paul, a potential challenge for elementary-school students and parents -- if later starts are recommended and approved for secondary students -- would be bus pick-ups as early as 6:30 a.m. for some children.
The district has created a webpage, "Rethinking School Start Times for 2015-16," that now contains research and other information. Soon, Superintendent Valeria Silva said recently, the page also will have a survey available for family, staff and community members.
The webpage is at: http://www.spps.org/starttimes
On Tuesday, May 6, at 6:30 p.m., Highland Park Senior High will host a presentation, "Pediatric Sleep Medicine: Informing High School Policy," by Dr. John Garcia, a pediatric sleep specialist at Gillette Children's Specialty Healthcare. The event is being held in the school's auditorium and is open to the public.