Delayed school start times will come at a price


Though new state mandates for school start times don’t take effect until 2026, the School District of Indian River County is already planning how to rearrange bus transportation and after-school activities so teenagers can get more morning shut-eye.

The bill states middle school must begin no earlier than 8 a.m. and high school not before 8:30 a.m. That means the first bell at the county’s public high schools will ring 85 minutes later than the current start time.

This modification will bring substantial costs to the local district, and will require substantial coordination.

“It is a major change in what has been our start time for as long as anyone can remember,” said Superintendent of Schools Dr. David Moore.

Beth Crisafulli, IRCS Director of Advocacy and School Management, presented a detailed action plan at the March Superintendent Workshop.

Changes in signage are expected to cost between $500 and $750 per school; a transportation routing study, $30,000; marketing materials, $500-$1,000 per school; and lighting for athletic fields, $500 an hour per stadium.

Seemingly counter to the overall goal of the new law, some sports practice times may need to take place before school to save on lighting and a shortage of fields because of the late start.

“We do not want students to be at practice till nine-thirty, ten o’clock (at night)” Moore said.

To start the process, parent surveys are scheduled to go out before the end of the current school year. School board members will be updated on the survey results in June.

The operational impact will include adjustments to current bus routing, staff hours, security measures, and much more. Meetings will take place with community partners and youth activity groups to evaluate the impact of programming and scheduling. The finalized plan must be in place by July 1, 2026.

“The whole thing is a challenge. This should have been left up to the community,” said Board Vice Chair Dr. Peggy Jones.

“There’s a lot to consider to get this right,” added Moore.

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