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St. Paul school board delays decision on later high school start times

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Start times for St. Paul public schools will remain the same next school year.

The St. Paul School Board voted 4-3 Tuesday to put off the decision on whether to move high schools to a later start time for another year, to study the ramifications of the change on transportation costs and on family routines, KSTP reports.

School leaders are considering changing the start time for high schools from 7:30 a.m. to 8:30 a.m., a move that several other districts in Minnesota have made in recent years to allow teenage students to get more sleep.

Researchers at the University of Minnesota have found that starting the high school day at a later time means students will generally get better grades, will be healthier and will be involved in few car accidents.

The American Academy of Pediatrics last month issued a new policy statement recommending later school start times for middle and high school students.

The academy says starting school later helps align school schedules to the changing biological sleep rhythms of adolescents, whose sleep-wake cycles begin to shift up to two hours later at the start of puberty, making it difficult for them to fall asleep before 11 p.m.

The school board members seem to agree, but were split over whether to wait another year.

Louise Seeba, one of the three who voted against the delay, called the later start times "a no-brainer," according to the St. Paul Pioneer Press.

Another board member, Chue Vue, urged the delay, saying school leaders haven't heard enough feedback from families with elementary students, who would likely need to start school an hour earlier, at 7:30 a.m., according to the Pioneer Press.

Chue noted that the district has a high rate of families in poverty, and schedule changes could impact them more heavily than others.

"This is a population that's very delicate," Vue said, according to the paper. "If nothing else, make sure they (have time to) brace for it."

The cost of busing could increase significantly with the new schedule, and administrators say they want to explore options with Metro Transit to transport high schoolers to and from school each day.

Here's a two-page summary of the school district's proposal, which also lists the pros and cons of the changes.

Superintendent Valeria Silva said the delay will give administrators more time to work out the busing piece and to take a more complete look at how the new schedule would affect families, the Pioneer Press reports.

"We know what is best for kids, and it's the later start. It's just about the timing," Silva said.

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