A committee asked to review potential school start-time changes in the St. Paul School District is recommending that current start times remain in place for 2015-16.

The recommendation, if approved by the school board later this month, would give the district more time to explore a partnership with Metro Transit and eliminate, for now, the potential of many elementary school students having to begin their day one to two hours earlier at 7:30 a.m.

The elementary-school changes would have been the flip side to the district's effort to seize on the lessons of sleep research by pushing back high school and middle school start times from 7:30 to 8:30 a.m.

Districts across the country have moved to later start times for high schoolers because research shows that teens have a later release of the sleep hormone melatonin and do not begin feeling drowsy until about 11 p.m. -- meaning that going to bed early to get eight hours of sleep before a 7:30 a.m. start is impractical for many.

In order to keep transportation costs from rising, St. Paul would have had to shift a different group of students -- in this case, elementary students now attending neighborhood schools -- into the 7:30 a.m. start-time slot. Parents have objected due to potential changes in family routines.

Metro Transit now buses high school students in Minneapolis, and has been working with St. Paul to see if it can help resolve the elementary school concerns by easing the district's high school workload. For now, however, the efforts have come up short, officials say.

The school board will hear the steering committee's recommendation on Tuesday when it meets as the committee of the board. A board vote is expected on Oct. 14.

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