Rochester, MN (KROC-AM News) - The possibility of using Rochester’s public transit system to transport thousands of middle and high school students to and from school is on the agenda for Monday’s meeting of the Rochester City Council Committee of the Whole Meeting.

The proposal, which has been under discussion for over a year by city and Rochester School District staff, would expand the city’s bus system to accommodate approximately 2900 students attending a dozen middle and high schools in Rochester. That would allow the schools to shift the start time for the older students from the current 7:40 a.m. to 8:45 a.m. in light of research showing starting school later in the morning can have health and academic benefits for teenagers.

The results of a preliminary study indicate the public transit system would need to add 16 routes and 22 additional buses. The added operational costs are estimated at nearly $840,000 the first year and are predicted to gradually grow to around $935,000 by year five. The added capital expenses for purchasing the additional buses is estimated at almost $11 million, but a portion of that would likely be covered by federal transit funds.

The City Council and School Board are now being asked to split the cost of a more in-depth study that would include selecting routes, identifying funding sources and deciding how to share the costs between the two governments. If possible, the school district has indicated it would like to begin the new service as early as this fall.