Many families are all too familiar with this scenario. Every morning, parents fight to wake sleepy teenagers, get them to the vehicle or bus stop, and then hope they are ready for school.
A Florida House panel did, however, adopt a plan on Thursday that would establish start hours for middle schools and high schools that would be more in step with teenagers’ natural cycles.
Rep. John Temple, R-Wildwood, is the bill’s primary sponsor (HB 733), which would ban public middle schools from opening before 8 a.m. and public high schools from opening before 8:30 a.m.
The change would significantly impact high schools: According to a state report, 9 percent of public high schools began classes before 8:30 a.m., while another 19 percent began lessons before 8 a.m.
According to research cited by Temple, teenagers need eight to nine hours of sleep every night and struggle to settle down and sleep by 11:00 p.m. He claimed that later start times would enhance academic success for many pupils.
“I think about the priorities. What is the focus? As an educator, what are we there to do? And it’s the academics, the training, and preparing them to be productive citizens. And what is the best way to do that to prepare them for lifelong success?” Temple, the Sumter County School Board’s director of professional learning and accountability, stated. ”And adjusting that start time would have a positive impact.”
Rep. Angie Nixon, a Democrat from Jacksonville, highlighted concerns about a different problem many families are all too familiar with: how later start times might affect parents who have to drop off their kids at school to leave for work. For later school start times, she said it would be essential to find a transit solution.
“Transportation is a major issue that working families have to deal with. … It is something that is going to potentially hurt our parents if we’re not able to get it right,” Nixon, who has teenage children, said.
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This week, House Speaker Paul Renner, a Republican from the Palm Coast, supported the concept of later start hours during his speech to begin the parliamentary session.
“Quality sleep is also critical to children’s learning and mental health, so we will pursue appropriate school start times as a zero-cost way to improve both academic scores and mental well-being,” Renner said in prepared remarks.
The American Academy of Pediatrics Florida Branch has endorsed the plan and commended Renner for drawing attention to it.
“By recognizing the critical importance of sufficient sleep for academic success, health, and safety, he is taking significant steps towards improving the lives of our children and adolescents,” The pediatrics group’s president, a doctor named Thresia Gambon, stated in a prepared statement.
According to Temple’s legislation, school districts would have until July 1, 2026, to implement later start times. In the Senate, Sen. Danny Burgess, R-Zephyrhills, has introduced a similar bill (SB 1112).