Later start times for Florida middle and high school students could impact school bus schedules

If passed, middle schools would start no earlier than 8 a.m. and high schools no earlier than 8:30 a.m.
Palm Beach County public school students board a school bus during the 2022-23 academic year.jpg
Posted at 4:48 PM, Mar 27, 2023
and last updated 2023-03-27 17:33:43-04

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. — Changing the start time for Florida middle and high school students came one step closer to reality on Monday.

A Florida Senate education committee passed its version of bill — SB 1112, formally titled "Middle School and High School Start Times" — that would require middle schools to start after 8 a.m. and high schools after 8:30 a.m.

The goal is to give teenagers more sleep. But on Monday, some state lawmakers recognized the impact this could have on school transportation.

WPTV education reporter Stephanie Susskind spoke to the union that represents Palm Beach County school bus drivers. Officials said they don't support the legislation because, with a staffing shortage already for bus drivers nationwide, they worry what the time change will do.

Read the bill here:


What time is the right time to start school? That's the question Florida lawmakers are trying to answer.

A proposal moving through committees would change middle school start times to at least 8 a.m. and high schools to no earlier than 8:30 a.m. to give teenagers more sleep.

It's a move pediatricians support.

"It's so important for them to get those 8 to 10 hours for their social, emotional, physical development. And if they don't get it, we can see those consequences on a day-to-day basis," pediatrician Dr. Shannon Fox-Levine, with Palm Beach Pediatrics, said.

But what's the cost when it comes to transportation? There's currently no additional funding tied to the bill to hire more bus drivers.

"It will create a logistical nightmare," said Chuck Ridley, who's with the union representing Palm Beach County school bus drivers.

Ridley is watching this all very closely.

"There is no way we can make that coverage over the geographical area we have to cover if they move that time back," Ridley said.

Ridley added school districts would have to completely overhaul the transportation and school start time schedule.

Right now, most Palm Beach County high schools start at about 7:30 a.m., most middle schools start at 9:30 a.m., and elementary schools start at 8 a.m.

"I would hope that we would consider making sure that our littlest don't get sacrificed in this situation to the earlier time," Sen. Erin Grall, R-Fort Pierce, said during a Senate Pre-K-12 Education Committee meeting on Monday.

Transportation troubles were brought up during the hearing. Sen. Lori Berman, D-Boca Raton, shared concerns coming from Superintendent Mike Burke of the School District of Palm Beach County.

"I think there will be a money issue," Berman said. "Already know we have a bus driver shortage in the state."

Ridley hopes to see more talking before there's any more action.

"Send the legislators back to communities, have conversations explaining to us what it is they are trying to achieve, and then maybe we can roll up our sleeves together and come up with resolutions together," Ridley said. "Moving the start time to 8:30, I'm afraid, is just a poor idea."

A companion bill, HB 733, is currently working its way through the Florida House of Representatives.

If the measure does pass, it would not take effect until 2026, hopefully giving school districts enough time to figure out the logistics.