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Rochester, MN (KROC-AM News) - The Rochester School Board could soon be asked to consider another change in school start times.

The school district made changes to school start times last fall in an effort to better accommodate the sleep needs of older students. The opening bell at the elementary schools was moved to around 9:30 AM and the end of the school day was pushed out to around 4 PM. At the middle and high school levels, classes begin at 8:20 AM and the closing bell is at 3 PM.

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During his most recent appearance on Rochester Today on News Talk 1340 KROC-AM and 96.9 FM, Superintendent Kent Pekel stated the district has been analyzing the impact of those changes and has found they have been very positive for middle and high school students in terms of alertness and student engagement. On the other hand, Pekel says the change at the elementary school level has had "a really challenging effect for our youngest learners' ability to be highly engaged in class academically." He explained that the younger children tend to get up earlier, and by starting school later they miss out on some prime learning time.

The superintendent says district staff and its main transportation vendor, First Student, are running an analysis to determine the feasibility of moving the elementary schools to the "top tier" of the busing system, which he says essentially represents the first student pickups of the day around 8 AM. Pekel says it's a complex process with the analysis occurring at the same time the school district is developing a new transportation structure as it prepares for the opening of four new schools in the fall.

Elementary school kids climbing on to a school bus
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Pekel says one of the key questions is how much it would cost. At this point, he is hoping for an estimate in mid-April. If it is determined the price tag would not be prohibitive, the superintendent says the next step would be discussions with parents, educators, and older students to gather feedback on the pros and cons of staying with the current schedule or establishing an earlier start time for the elementary schools.

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