Florida considers pushing back start times for middle and high school

The bill would delay school an hour for Leon County high school students
Possible change to school start times
Published: Mar. 10, 2023 at 7:48 PM EST
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TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (WCTV) - Florida lawmakers are considering pushing back the alarms for students and parents. A new proposal in the House would set later school start times for middle and high schoolers.

H-B 733 would require middle schools to start no earlier than 8 a.m. and high schools no earlier than 8:30 a.m. In Leon County, that would mean pushing back high school start times an hour. The bill gives educators until 2026 to adjust their county schedules.

Leon County Schools looked into altering school hours many times before, but officials have not found a plan that works, especially with the ongoing bus driver shortage, said LCS Superintendent Rocky Hanna. The current system has been in place for at least a decade.

He doesn’t think the change would be possible here.

The school system operates on a three-tier system, with high schools starting at 7:30 a.m., elementary schools at 8:30 a.m. and middle school at 9:30 a.m. Past discussions have considered switching the starts for elementary and high schools, but Hanna said he can’t imagine requiring 6-year-olds to wait for busses in the dark.

“We just can’t figure out a model... In a perfect world, we would love to start all of our schools at 8:30 a.m. But we just don’t have enough buses, and especially right now, enough bus drivers,” he said.

Hanna also said the legislation would have other ramifications. Athletic practice hours and other after-school activities would be shifted later in the day. And students who work or dual enroll could face additional impacts.

For Leon County Parent Mike Long, though, the later the start of the school day, the better. He works night shifts and thinks the change would grant him more time with his family in the mornings. Long thinks it would especially benefit one of his daughters, who is a fellow night owl.

“We want to wake up when it’s light outside,” he said. “It will allow more time for us to spend with her and my other daughter.”

Several parents who didn’t feel comfortable being quoted said they don’t support pushing back school hours.

Many families drop their kids off for school on their way to work, and if education hours were altered, they wouldn’t know how to transport their child and make it to work on time.

The bill, filed last month, made it through the House Choice & Innovation Subcommittee Thursday. It now awaits approval by the PreK-12 Appropriations Subcommittee