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School start times could be pushed back in Florida

TALLAHASSEE - A Florida Senate panel on Monday approved a proposal that would push back school start times for many high-school students in the state.

The Senate Education PreK-12 Committee approved the bill (SB 1112), which would prevent middle schools from beginning the "instructional day" before 8 a.m., while high schools would be barred from starting before 8:30 a.m.

The average start time for Florida high schools is 7:45 a.m., with 46 percent of high schools starting before 7:30 a.m., according to the Legislature's Office of Program Policy Analysis and Government Accountability. Senate bill sponsor Danny Burgess, R-Zephyrhills, pointed to the importance of adequate sleep for adolescents. 

"What we are doing now (with earlier start times) is not what's best for students. The science shows that," Burgess said.

"The research and the data show that. How can we recognize that and improve upon how we are currently operating, and make sure that we are getting the maximum effectiveness for our students?" Sen. Shevrin Jones, D- West Park, drew from his experience as an educator in supporting the bill.

"As a former high school teacher, I am sure the teachers will appreciate that because showing up at school at 6 o'clock in the morning ain't cute and fun at all," Jones told the panel. 

The full House is slated to take up its version of the bill (HB 733) on Thursday.

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