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% 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% of high schools start between 7:30 a.m. and 7:59 a.m.
Dozens of Tampa Bay area schools would be affected by the legislation.
Pinellas County’s 17 high schools start at 7:35 a.m. or earlier. Ten of Pasco County’s 17 high schools start at 7:16 a.m. or earlier, and another five start between 8 a.m. and 8:30 a.m. Hernando County’s five high schools start at 7:20 a.m. or earlier.
Six of Pasco’s 17 middle schools start before 8 a.m.
Most middle schools in Hillsborough and Pinellas counties start after 9:30 a.m. and would not be affected. Nor would Hernando middle schools, which start at 9:10 a.m., or Hillsborough high schools, which moved start times to 8:30 a.m. in 2017.
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.
Information from Times staff writer Jeffrey S. Solochek was included in this report.
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