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July 30, 2018

New start times highlight changes in Hillsborough Schools 

As more than 200,000 students return to class, now is an important time to remind everyone about some changes coming for the 2018-19 school year in Hillsborough County Public Schools. 

These changes were approved by our School Board months ago after extensive community input, but with buses about to start rolling and the first bell just days away, we wanted to make sure you’re aware. 

Related: School Security: What to expect during the new school year

First, the new school year starts on Friday, Aug. 10. A Friday does seem like an awkward day to return, but there’s a reason for it. It is the earliest date allowed by the Florida Legislature, and starting then allows us to preserve a full week off for Thanksgiving break while also completing the first semester before winter break. 

Our students and teachers have told us that completing a semester (and semester exams) before the long winter holiday is what’s best, so we structured our calendar to meet their needs. 

It is very important for students to attend that first day and we hope you’ll make attendance a priority on that day and every day of the school year. 

We want to make sure parents pay special attention to new bell schedules in place throughout our district. There are some specific exceptions — so check with your school — but most schools will operate on these schedules: 

  • Elementary: 7:40 a.m. to 1:55 p.m. (12:55 p.m. on Mondays) 
  • Middle: 9:25 a.m. to 4:20 p.m. (3:20 p.m. on Mondays) 
  • High: 8:30 a.m. to 3:25 p.m. (2:25 p.m. on Mondays) 
  • Magnet Elementary: 8:45 a.m. to 3 p.m. (2 p.m. on Mondays) 
  • Magnet Middle and High: 8:30 a.m. to 3:25 p.m. (2:25 p.m. on Mondays) 

We made these changes for several reasons: 

  • Before this change, about 12,000 students were transported to school late every day because the schools’ start times were too close together. 
  • This new schedule was the number one choice in parent, student, staff, and community surveys. 
  • The new schedule matches guidance from the American Academy of Pediatrics, which recommends high schools start no earlier than 8:30 a.m. 
  • This change allows us to more efficiently use our school buses, with 80 percent of our buses now able to serve three schools rather than 60 percent before.  

All campuses open 30 minutes before the first bell for free breakfast and a range of enrichment activities. Affordable before- and after-school care is also available at schools throughout our district. 

This will be a significant change for our system and for our community, with traffic patterns expected to shift throughout the county. However, the overall need to do what is best for student learning and improve efficiency drove this significant shift, guided by extensive community input. 

You can confirm your school’s bell times and check out before- and after-school care options at our district website, sdhc.k12.fl.us. 

Our district’s motto for the coming year is We Climb Together, and we look forward to a great 2018-19 school year filled with high student achievement.