Zephyrhills lawmaker pushes for later school start times across Florida

A Senate pane has approved a proposal that would push back school start times for many high-school students in Florida. 

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

The average start time for Florida high schools is 7:45 a.m., with 46% of high schools starting before 7:30 a.m., according to the Legislature. 

The Senate bill sponsor Danny Burgess (R-Zephyrhills) pointed to the importance of adequate sleep for adolescents as a reason school start times should be pushed back.

"What we are doing now is not what’s best for students, and the science shows that. The research and the data show that. How can we recognize that and improve upon how we are currently operating, and make sure that we are getting the maximum effectiveness for our students?" Sen. Burgess said. "The science is irrefutable. So, how do we balance out these competing interests, making sure that we are doing the right thing for kids against obviously the logistical challenges that arise by doing this."

Sen. Shevrin Jones (D-West Park) added, "As a former high school teacher, I am sure the teachers will appreciate that, because showing up at school at 6 o’clock in the morning ain’t cute and fun at all." 

The bill has two more committee stops in the Senate, while the full House is slated to take up its version of the bill on Thursday.