WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. — A new proposal in the Florida Legislature would change school start times for thousands of students throughout the state.
HB 733, formally titled "Middle School and High School Start Times," just cleared a House committee and would require middle and high schools to start no earlier than 8 a.m. and 8:30 a.m., respectively, to help teenagers get more sleep.
If the bill goes through, it would have a big impact on high schoolers across the area, most of whom currently start school at about 7:30 a.m.
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"Having the opportunity to have two daughters go through that 8:30 a.m. start time really gives you an appreciation of how important that extra hour is for these teenagers," Palm Beach County mother Stacy Brookman said.
Brookman is thankful her daughter goes to Boca Raton Community High School, one of the few Palm Beach County high schools that starts later.
"That 8:30 start time really makes a difference between her and her friends outside Boca High," Brookman said.
The bill moving through the Florida Legislature would require public high schools to start no earlier than 8:30 a.m. and no earlier than 8 a.m. for middle schools.
Some lawmakers worry about the impact on working parents and transportation. A change would likely result in a shuffle of start times across a school district.
Right now, most Palm Beach County high schools start at about 7:30 a.m. St. Lucie County high schools also start at about 7:30 a.m.
Indian River and Okeechobee counties start even earlier at about 7 a.m.
Only Martin County starts high school later at 8:20 a.m.
"There is a direct correlation between the anxiety and depression that we see with teenagers, as well with not getting enough sleep, and a lot of it is because of this," pediatrician Dr. Shannon Fox-Levine, with Palm Beach Pediatrics, said.
Fox-Levine said doctors have been fighting for later school start times for years.
"It's so important for them to get those eight to 10 hours for their social, emotional, physical development," Fox-Levine said. "And if they don't get it, we can see those consequences on a day-to-day basis."
"My understanding is the staggered start times are because of transportation needs," Palm Beach County high school parent Sara Green said. "We just don't have enough buses to be able to transport all of those students at the same time."
Green understands why school starts when it does but would love to see a change.
"I do think the health and well-being of these children comes first," Green said. "And a lot of the extracurricular activities and also the homework load requires these students to be up past midnight to complete activities and requirements. And then they are getting up at 5:30 or 6 in the morning to get to school."
Only time will tell if the bill goes through.
"While I don't normally agree with everything our legislature is doing — especially now with our public schools — I'm really happy to see this is a consideration," Brookman said.
If the bill does pass, it would not take effect until 2026.