MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) – The American Academy of Pediatrics is among those recommending later starts for high school students.

In the past two decades, many Minnesota school districts have pushed back starting times.

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But in Wayzata, a proposal to move the high school start time back from 7:30 a.m. to 8:20 a.m. is getting some unexpected opposition.

Because of bus schedules, the later high school start would mean some elementary schools would have to change their current start time from 9:10 a.m. to 7:30 a.m.

Elementary school parents have organized online petitions and are vowing to fight the change.

The Wayzata school district has consulted with researchers, including the University of Minnesota’s Kyla Wahlstrom. She says the evidence of the benefit for a later start for high school students is overwhelming.

“The students do have improved academic performance,” she said. “They do show better mental health, less depression, greater self-efficacy and a sense of being ready to start the day.”

Wahlstrom says its also a safety issue. When Jackson Hole, Wyoming, moved its high school start times from 7:30 a.m. to 8:55 a.m., there was a 70 percent drop in car accidents involving teens at the school.

“When we have a reduction with teen drivers, that’s a benefit for everybody,” she said.

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Chace Anderson, the district’s superintendent, says he has been hearing from high school families for years that the 7:30 a.m. start time is too early.

“There is some interest in taking a look at ‘Is there a way for us to do that?’ and ‘Is it the right time for us to do that?'” he said.

But parents of Wayzata’s elementary school kids say the proposal that would move start times up by, in some cases, more than an hour-and-a-half is not healthy for their children.

“With the current plan, parents would have to wake them up between 6 and 6:15, quickly get them dressed, give them some food and put them on the bus,” said Ryan Willson, the father of four elementary school kids.

But Wahlstrom says the research shows that while younger children are more flexible when it comes to being able to go to bed earlier, teens are not.

“It is biologically determined when teens feel sleepy, and they do not feel sleepy before 11,” she said.

Wayzata’s superintendent says he is also sympathetic to the concerns of elementary parents.

There will be an informational meeting for parents on Oct. 1 and the school board could vote on Oct. 12. The change would go into effect next year.

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There is a compromise proposal that would move the high school start back just 25 minutes to 7:55 a.m. and have all the elementary start times at 9:10 a.m.

Esme Murphy