The St. Paul School District has put on hold, again, its hopes of pushing back high school start times so more of its older students can get more sleep.
In a 5-2 vote Tuesday night involving next school year, a frustrated school board opted to continue with the current arrangement that gives students at just one high school a coveted 8:30 a.m. start.
The move marks another year of disappointment for the state’s second-largest district in its effort to move more secondary start times from 7:30 to 8:30 a.m. Research indicates student performance rises, and absences and tardiness decline, when teens sleep longer.
A proposal to push back start times on a broader scale failed last year, too.
Transportation is pivotal to any district start-time equation, and Metro Transit helped St. Paul this year by busing students at Johnson Aerospace & Engineering High School. But Metro Transit surprised district administrators in September by saying it did not have the bus storage capacity to extend its involvement to other schools in 2016-17.
Last month, two other options were put forward that would have changed start times for varying numbers of high school and elementary students. Unlike the Johnson High plan, however, they would have relied entirely on the district’s yellow buses. The proposals, in turn, failed to gain traction in part because the prospective high school participants would not have the added advantage of being able to use the all-you-can-ride cards that Metro Transit now provides Johnson High students.
Theresa Battle, assistant superintendent of high schools, said that high school principals recognize the gains that can come from allowing students more sleep. But they know students also can benefit from participating in after-school activities, she added, and they see the opportunity to ride Metro Transit buses at anytime as a potential boost to extracurricular involvement.
For those principals, Battle said, “the golden ticket was Metro Transit.”
Board Member Louise Seeba, who made an unsuccessful pitch to move one more high school to a later start time, noted that Johnson High had avoided making the drugs-and-violence headlines that have plagued other high schools this fall. The district, she said, should “stop the chatter” about later starts “and start the doing.”
The board directed administrators to continue working with Metro Transit on expansion possibilities and to develop by next summer a multiyear school-starts plan.
Also Tuesday, the board announced who will be part of its first student advisory team.
St. Paul school board members, unlike their counterparts in Minneapolis, decided against naming a student member to sit alongside them and instead sought a range of voices to provide input on major issues like start-time changes. The 13 students selected for the pilot project were:
Serena Jing, Astrid Steiner-Manning and Ruby Sutton from Central High; Xe Chang, Serene Lewis, Mikhail Prasolov, Isabel Riemer and Rogelio Salinas from Highland Park Senior High; Keith Eicher and Zoe Sblendorio-Giebel from Como Park Senior High; Kyeh Paw from Washington Technology Magnet; and Marcelus Ifonlaja and Skyler Kuczaboski from Harding Senior High.