Bill that would make some Florida schools start later passes legislature

Bank of computers at Sheehy Elementary School. By Pamela Robinson/WMNF News (2022).

The Florida Senate on Thursday gave final approval to a bill that would lead to many high-school students seeing later school start times in the future.

The Senate voted 38-2 to pass the bill (HB 733), which was approved March 31 by the House.

Sen. Nick DiCeglie, R-Indian Rocks Beach, and Sen. Geraldine Thompson, D-Windermere, cast the dissenting votes Thursday.

The bill would prevent middle schools from beginning the “instructional day” earlier than 8 a.m., while high schools would be barred from starting the school day before 8:30 a.m.

The changes would have to go into effect by July 2026.

About 48 percent of Florida’s public high schools start school before 7:30 a.m., according to the Legislature’s Office of Program Policy Analysis and Government Accountability.

Another 19 percent of high schools start between 7:30 a.m. and 7:59 a.m.

Some senators Thursday raised questions about how the changes would affect issues such as student transportation and after-school jobs.

But supporters have pointed to studies that say later start times would benefit high-school students.

“What we’re doing now (with earlier start times) is not what’s best for our kids, for the adolescents especially,” Senate sponsor Danny Burgess, R-Zephyrhills, said. “It’s the ‘how’ that can be the hard challenge and the logistics of that and how we make this happen.”

Burgess said the bill would give a three-year “glide path” to address concerns before the requirements would take effect.

The measure is ready to go to Gov. Ron DeSantis.

©2023 The News Service of Florida

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