Apr 19, 2023 - News

How a Florida bill could affect Tampa Bay school start times

Illustration of a finger stretching out to turn off an alarm clock made from a red apple

Illustration: Annelise Capossela/Axios

Tampa Bay high school students could get another hour of sleep if a bill proposing to push back the start of school clears the Senate.

What's happening: Senate Bill 1112 would create mandatory minimum start times for all of Florida's public schools, Axios Miami reports. An identical bill passed the House in late March, and the Senate version has one more committee stop before the full chamber votes on it.

  • High school classes would not be allowed to begin before 8:30am, and middle schools would have to start after 8am.

Why it matters: Teenagers aren't getting enough sleep, and the American Academy of Pediatrics supports later start times to fight chronic sleep loss.

  • A 2015 survey found that 73% of high school students across 30 states were getting less than eight hours of sleep a night. During puberty, adolescents get tired later at night and need to sleep in more, per the CDC.

Zoom in: Hillsborough County Public Schools would already be in compliance with the legislation, district spokesperson Jennifer Holton told Axios.

  • High school start times range from 8:30am to 8:40am. Middle school doesn't start until 9:45am.

High schools in Pinellas, however, start as early as 7:10am, while middle schools generally begin at 9:40am.

The intrigue: School officials in Pinellas County released a tentative bell schedule for the upcoming school year that would directly conflict with the legislation's requirements.

  • Three schools, Pinellas High Innovation, East Lake Middle School and Bay Point Middle School, would begin classes between 7:15am and 7:25am under the new schedule. The schools' start times currently range from 9:15am to 9:40am.
  • The changes are intended to address travel hiccups caused by a shortage of bus drivers, according to Bay News 9. Some schools in Pasco and Hernando County already start before 7:30am.

Yes, but: If the bill passes, school districts will have until 2026 to comply with the state's mandatory start times.

What they're saying: "Chronic sleep loss has a wide range of negative impacts to students with regard to physical and mental health, safety, and academic achievement, and there is a substantial body of research to demonstrate that delaying school start times is an effective countermeasure," Sen. Danny Burgess (R-Zephyrhills), who filed the bill, said.

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