When will Tallahassee change its school start times?

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Florida’s House Bill 733 mandates that by July 1, 2026, middle schools cannot start before 8 a.m. and high schools before 8:30 a.m. This legislative change aims to enhance student health and academic  performance by allowing more sleep time, supported by research on the benefits of later start times. As  Tallahassee prepares for this transition, it can learn from Polk and Martin counties, which have already  implemented similar changes. 

Polk County serves as a case study for Tallahassee. According to the bill, Polk County shifted  middle school start times to 8 a.m. and high school start times to 8:30 a.m. by July 1, 2026. 

This  adjustment aimed to improve student well-being, reduce tardiness, and enhance academic engagement.  However, Polk County encountered challenges in adjusting transportation schedules and accommodating  after-school activities. 

Similarly, Martin County successfully implemented later school start times, aligning with the  legislative requirements. This change was aimed at improving student sleep patterns and overall health,  reflecting a growing trend towards prioritizing student well-being in educational policies. 

Tallahassee faces similar challenges as it prepares for the new start times. Lisa Johnson,  transportation coordinator for Leon County Schools, highlights the need to reevaluate bus routes and possibly hire more drivers to ensure efficient transportation under the new schedule. 

Local principal, Ava Williams, also emphasizes the importance of effective communication and planning.  

“We’ll utilize all communication channels—emails, social media, paper flyers—to ensure everyone is informed about the changes,” Williams said. She also acknowledges the concerns of teachers and families  regarding the impact on daily routines and extracurricular activities. 

Keziah Robinson, a high school student, expresses mixed feelings about the change. “I’m unsure how I feel about the new start times,” Robinson said. “While it might allow more sleep, I’m concerned about its effect on my after-school commitments and homework.” 

Robinson’s mother, Tykesha Robinson, reflecting on the adjustment, adds, “The later start times could disrupt work schedules and after-school care arrangements. Schools should provide resources to help  families manage these changes effectively.”

According to the Florida Senate, HB 733 mandates that middle schools must start no earlier than 8 a.m. and high schools no earlier than 8:30 a.m. by the 2026-2027 academic year. This legislation aims to align school schedules with adolescent sleep patterns and improve overall student well-being. 

As Tallahassee prepares to implement later school start times mandated by HB 733, it can anticipate both benefits and challenges. Learning from Polk and Martin counties, effective communication, logistical  planning, and support for students and families will be essential for a smooth transition. By addressing these aspects proactively, Tallahassee can ensure that the new start times contribute positively to student well being and academic stress.