Superintendents concerned about start time proposal
Some of Florida's superintendents are worried about the potential effects of a proposal by Rep. Matt Gaetz, R-Fort Walton Beach, that high schools statewide be prohibited from starting earlier than 8 a.m. Gaetz believes teenagers, who are biologically wired to stay up later, will learn better with a bit more sleep.
The Times wrote about the issue in October when it first arose.
Superintendents in Florida sent emails back and forth about the bill late last month, expressing reservations about the cost implications and the loss of local control.
Mary Beth Jackson, superintendent of Okaloosa County Schools, said it would be a "huge financial burden" for her school district. Richard Shirley, superintendent of Sumter County Schools, said he didn't have "any dogs in this hunt," but said he was concerned about the control that could be lost by the school districts to set their own school start times.
"With all due respect, surely there are more significant issues in the state of Florida than micro-managing school starting dates and now school starting times...?" he wrote.
District officials have said that changing school start times is more complex than it appears. Most large school districts run their school buses in waves, with the same bus transporting two or three different sets of students in a day. It would be expensive to run more buses, but the alternative is to have younger students start earlier - something many parents aren't keen on.
Jackson said she wouldn't recommend having young students wait in the dark for the bus.
"I will not recommend to our School Board that 5 year old children get on the bus in the dark while 15 year old students get on the bus two hours later. I find it difficult to believe that anyone would even suggest that," she wrote.
But Gaetz said in October that other school districts have found ways to make it work without an increased cost burden.