Gov. DeSantis signs Florida bill that changes school start times

Reporter: Emma Heaton
Published: Updated:

Beginning in 2026, every school district in Florida must follow a new state law that’s going to switch up start times for students.

Middle schools won’t be able to start earlier than 8 a.m., and high schools no earlier than 8:30 a.m.

Making those changes won’t be easy. Mom Christa Deaton is not happy with Florida lawmakers.

“There’s no reason to change anything,” Deaton said. “It’s working.”

She takes care of her little guy while her other two kids go to middle and high school. Deaton said the current school start times work for her and her kids.

“Them starting an hour and a half later, they’re not going to be home till 5:30 at night,” Deaton said.

Lawmakers want students to sleep more

Lawmakers say they made the change because research shows kids who sleep more get better grades and miss fewer days of class.

The same studies show not getting enough rest impacts a student’s health and ability to learn.

School bus issues arise

Deaton wonders how Lee County is going to make this change when bussing, in her words, is already a nightmare.

Florida’s school start times will change come 2026. (CREDIT: WINK News)

“Half the week I have to drive my son because the bus is inconsistent. The app doesn’t show where he is or where the bus is. The numbers aren’t lining up,” she said.

Armor Persons may be new to the Lee County School Board but he’s familiar with chronic bussing problems.

That’s why he said the district created its proximity plan that shrinks school zones, so parents can choose where to send their kids.

But the proximity plan revolves around Lee County schools’ current start times.

High school starts at 7:05 a.m., middle school at 9:45 a.m., and elementary school at 7:55 a.m.

“It’s gonna be difficult, we’re gonna have to be creative with our start times,” Persons said.

Persons said he trusts the science, but he also understands parents’ concerns over buses as well as kids who want or need to work or play sports.

“What some of the schools have done is they’ve moved some sports actually early,” Persons said.

Persons said the district would look into changing sport practice times in hopes of finding the best solution. But, he added, academics should come first.

Deaton doesn’t buy it.

“You’ve got high schoolers that are going to be going into life soon. And they’re going to have the expectation of getting up at eight in the morning when we all know nobody starts work eight in the morning and not most people at least,” Deaton said.

Now that Gov. Ron DeSantis signed the bill Lee County and other school districts have three years to make the change.

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