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Sleep, safety reasons Miami-Dade may move school start times

Push comes after two-year study concludes more sleep is better for students

MIAMI-DADE COUNTY, Fla. – Miami-Dade County public school students might be hearing the bell ring later in the morning starting in the 2020 school year.

The school board unanimously voted Wednesday to explore later start times, and two of the main reasons behind the move are sleep and safety.

"We surveyed about 1,800 students middle and high school-age students, and 80 percent say they aren't getting enough sleep," Superintendent Alberto Carvalho said.

Some possible models Miami-Dade school board officials are exploring could see elementary school starting no earlier than 8 a.m., with middle and high schools starting between 8:30 and 9:30 a.m. Dismissal times are to be pushed back as well to accommodate a full school day.

While sleep is likely high on the list for students, there are other benefits, like re-configuring and optimizing bus routes. In total nearly 40 bus routes would be impacted and could save the county millions.

"The time configuration of those routes right now is quite compressed," Carvalho said. "If we move it down a bit like we are proposing, then the utilization of buses becomes more efficient."

Some roadblocks to the plan include logistics with county infrastructure and labor unions.

Officials would have to figure out how to re-coordinate school speed zones and crossing guard schedules, as well as work with the Miami-Dade Schools Police department to work on scheduling its 460 officers.

Another important factor is the safety of children, not forcing them to catch buses or walk to school in the dark, as the first bus is on the road by 4:50 a.m.

Before the proposal moves forward, however, Carvalho is seeking input from the community.

"We've done our part with the research," Carvalho said. "Now the community has to meet up with us and provide their opinion because we recognize the impact will be on the stakeholders, the parents, business owners and police entities in the community." 

The step forward comes on the heels of a two-year study of other schools in Boston, Seattle and Hillsborough County that have shifted start times, while implementing later start times in some pilot schools in Miami-Dade County.