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‘It’s too early:’ Florida lawmakers look at pushing back middle and high school start times

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. — Florida lawmakers are looking into whether middle and high school is starting too early in the state.

It is one of the rare times Florida may copy California policy.

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That state pushed middle and high school start times back to 8 a.m. and 8:30 a.m. respectively in 2019, and it’s possible we could see a similar push here in the upcoming session.

In Northeast Florida, start times for later grades vary.

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Duval starts high schools at 7:15 a.m. and Clay starts at 7:20 a.m.

Nassau starts high school at 9 a.m. and St. Johns is the latest, with the start of school set at 9:30 a.m..

All but one county starts middle school at 9 a.m. or later, with St. Johns being the only exception, starting at 7:30 a.m.

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“Delaying school start times for teens is seen as effective countermeasure to chronic sleep loss,” said State Representative Kaylee Tuck (R-Sebring).

Tuck chairs the House Choice & Innovation Subcommittee.

The committee heard from a panel of sleep experts on Thursday, who laid out the case for later school start times for middle and high school.

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Some of the research presented showed a correlation between a lack of sleep and an increased risk of suicide, obesity, higher incidents of traffic accidents and crime, as well as lower academic performance.

“It’s a cynical thing to say, well make the kids go to bed earlier. Biologically they just can’t do that,” Dr. Rafael Pelayo with the National Sleep Foundation said.

The presenters advocated for an 8:30 a.m. or later start time for middle and high school students.

Read: St. Johns County School District updates list of removed books

It’ll be up to lawmakers whether to craft legislation to mandate later start times throughout the state.

High school parents and grandparents we spoke with here in Duval had differing ideas on pushing school start times back.

“Most of the time my two grandsons get there late because it’s too early, right?” Duval grandparent Juan Martinez said.

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“I think high schoolers like getting out at 2 o’clock in the afternoon,” another Duval grandparent Julie Freece said.

“Yeah, it’s like too early to wake up, but another side it’s like after seven or 7:30 it becomes too much traffic,” Duval parent Willy Naamo said.

Another finding presented to the committee showed 92 percent of parents reported finding their children “easier to live with” after school start times were pushed back… Perhaps an incentive for parents currently on the fence.