St. Paul school board votes for later start time for older students
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Middle and high school students in St. Paul's public schools may be able to sleep later, beginning in the 2019-20 school year.
The St. Paul school board voted 5-2 Tuesday on a change to school start times. Under the plan, secondary schools will start at 8:30 a.m. To accommodate this, elementary schools that currently start at 8:30 a.m. will move to a 7:30 a.m. start time. Elementary schools that currently start at 9:30 a.m. will not change.
The district has been debating later start times for older students for years, citing research that teenagers are biologically programmed to sleep later.
"I see kids falling asleep in class all the time, and I've even done it a few times," St. Paul eighth grader James Kahn said. Kahn said his first class is his favorite, "But when every kid is falling asleep in a class, with an extremely interesting teacher, there's clearly a problem."
The shift is projected to cost the district about $2 million, unless Washington Technology Magnet School eliminates an extended-day schedule it currently operates. In that case, district officials said there would be no cost increase.
• The cost, explained: Changing school start times stirs controversy in St. Paul
The school board plans to finalize start times for individual schools over the next year. The approved motion left room for exceptions to the schedule.
Kahn's mother, Jacqueline Baronian chided the board for its delay after voting last year to make changes in the 2018-19 year. "Maybe it won't happen at all," Baronian said.
But parent Jessica Kopp opposed the impact that an earlier start could have on elementary students. "It's become an acceptable side effect to starting adolescents later," Kopp said.
Board member Chue Vue voted against the plan. "I think there are a lot of unknowns about the impact on little ones," Vue said.
School board members noted other challenges to the change, including scheduling for sporting events, childcare and early morning bus pick-ups for elementary students.
District officials said solutions could include offering additional spots in St. Paul's Discovery Club child care, adding after-school programs and reworking bus stop locations for early