Gunn exploring change to morning start time

Traffic a consideration and nothing decided yet, vice-principal stresses

A change to the morning school start time is under consideration at Gunn High School, but an official stressed that no decision has been made.

School department heads will discuss the possibility of different start times, among other agenda items, when they gather for their regular bi-weekly meeting Wednesday.

Gunn students currently begin their day at 7:55 a.m., but some parents, students and teen sleep advocates have pushed for a later start time.

Palo Alto High School moved its start time from 7:50 a.m. to 8:15 a.m. last fall and simultaneously adopted major changes to the school schedule -- moving from a traditional seven-periods-a-day schedule to a "block schedule," in which classes meet every other day but for twice as long. (Paly previously had had a "block schedule" two days a week, and now has the block schedule every day except Mondays.)

The Paly change -- which some in the Gunn community have urged that Gunn emulate -- came after lengthy study by a "bell schedule task force" convened by former Principal Jacquie McEvoy.

Gunn operates on what it calls a "modified" block schedule, adopted more than a decade ago, in which students have six classes Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays and five classes Tuesdays and Thursdays. Classes meet for longer than the traditional 50 minutes.

Assistant Principal Tom Jacoubowsky said Gunn has been "very happy" with the "modified" schedule and is not considering adopting the Paly block schedule.

But he said Gunn is "kicking around ideas" about changes to the morning start time.

"It's something we're exploring," he said.

"We have to take a bunch of factors into account -- including traffic on Arastradero Road.

"Nothing has been decided yet -- and that's a key thing -- but we're definitely exploring it."


Posted by Paly Parent, a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Apr 4, 2011 at 4:23 pm

We are a Paly family and love the later start time and the block schedule (plus advisory and tutorial). That extra 25 minutes of sleep has been fantastic. Makes less sleepy kids and a happier mom. It's worth a try.

Posted by Finally!, a resident of Greenmeadow
on Apr 4, 2011 at 5:27 pm

I am SO GLAD to hear that Gunn is considering this! I hear so many great things about the Paly block schedule and later start time; it's distressing that so far no such changes have been made at Gunn. Add in the long long LONG lines on Arastradero thanks to the city's flawed plan there, and Gunn students are really having to deal with a difficult situation. Please do this--and move finals before break! Give our kids a break!

Posted by parent, a resident of Midtown
on Apr 4, 2011 at 7:34 pm

glad to hear it.the city has a large part of faults in this messy trafic headache for both the students and parents.their road design increases a lot of stress for parents and students,just take a look at trafic jam every morning around that time,terrible.every day morning,it is like a battle field around there.

Posted by Joanna, a resident of Los Altos Hills
on Apr 4, 2011 at 10:01 pm

It is unbelievable that Gunn has not implemented this sooner, and that it is not a no-brainer. Every study shows that teenagers perform better and are less stressed when they have more sleep. It is unclear to me what is more important to the school than the emotional and physical well being of the students.

Posted by It Was About Time, a resident of Palo Verde
on Apr 4, 2011 at 10:33 pm

Thanks to the Daubers for bringing out the P-8 issue. This is the main reason why the district is considering considering to change the starting time. Let's hope people keep pushing for it, and hopefully they will join our group We Can Do Better Palo Alto. Thanks to the people who have been advocating for changes at Gunn so our kids can thrive academically, socially and emotionally a protective and supportive environment, so hopefully we do not loose more kids to suicide. Please join for this cause.

Posted by Misha, a resident of Midtown
on Apr 4, 2011 at 10:38 pm

The traffic jams due to changes to Arastradero has increased the commute time to school, resulting in an even earlier wake up time, depriving students of already too little sleep.

Seems the City intends to extend the supposed "pilot" road change so the dismal road condition isn't changing anytime soon.

Let's hope Gunn is sincere in its desire and willingness for a later start. I am troubled by Tom's comment that "Gunn" is happy with the current bell schedule - who is "Gunn" and it ain't all the kids who have expressed desire for a later start. Let's also hope that more effort is made than simply kicking about ideas.

Shall we see which takes longer to finally implement - road remediation or later start time?

Posted by Mom, a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Apr 4, 2011 at 11:38 pm

We LOVE the Paly block schedule. It has helped reduce stress. Initially, I thought the periods would be too long (and perhaps they are for ADD kids?) but my son loves it. The backpacks are lighter too. On Mondays when he carries books for all classes, it is HEAVY. The tutorial period on Thursdays is fantastic for students to visit teachers or work on homework.

Here's the Paly schedule: Web Link

Here's the Gunn schedule: Web Link

Posted by Time check, a resident of Barron Park
on Apr 5, 2011 at 8:10 am

Note that Gunn already has a modified block schedule which includes a weekly tutorial and early dismissal twice a week. There are no regular days when all seven periods meet. I think the point that Mr. Jacoubowsky was making was that most of "Gunn" is happy with the schedule (as in equal ~50 minute periods everyday), not necessarily the starting time.

The major difference is the start and end time. Paly starts 20 minutes later and ends 15 minutes later.

Posted by Paly Parent, a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Apr 5, 2011 at 8:28 am

Yes, we do enjoy the later start, but it is a 25 minute later start (for most days) but it does not transfer into 25 minutes more sleep. It means for us a 15 minute later wake up as even though the Paly student rides a bike, the only way to get to school passes close to 2 elementary schools and as a result the ride time to school is longer now than it used to be.

As I say, we enjoy the later start, but it does make a harder bike ride as there is a lot more traffic on the roads.

I think that Gunn would find similar downsides as they are also close to a middle and 2 elementary schools.

Posted by Observer, a resident of South of Midtown
on Apr 5, 2011 at 9:15 am

A later start time would be great for Gunn students. Teenagers are biologically programmed to stay up late and sleep in. The current schedule punishes them for their biology. The current 'traffic calming' alterations to Arastradero have indeed created gridlock, backups, dangerous situations, more stress for students and parents, and more fuel consumption per school day. Allowing Gunn students to arrive later in the mornings would help with all of this, although Arastradero will continue to be a problem until they take out the new obstacles and impediments on the roadway.

Posted by The long view, a resident of South of Midtown
on Apr 5, 2011 at 10:37 am

While some drivers are complaining about congestion, those of us who have been commuting on the road before and after the restriping know that current commute times are actually about the same. Arastradero has ALWAYS been horribly congested, even when it was four lanes. It has always been faster during school commute times to ride a bike. I know this because I have done it and timed it. You can also walk or take the VTA88 bus to school. If you have to drive, you might try a carpool.

I think that the district should look at more flexible schedule options. Some kids LIKE to start their day early. Offer a CHOICE to pick times for a first class. What if the school offered two schedules: one for early birds and one for kids who prefer a later start? That might that might break up the influx of cars and REDUCE traffic congestion, too, if they work it right.

Let's put all of the puzzle pieces on the table and find a solution that improves traffic AND gives kids flexibility to plan their schedule based on their needs--sort of the way college schedules work.

The district really must work with the city on this set of problems. If they just move the schedule 15 minutes they will worsen congestion. (And that would be the case with 4-lanes as well.)

Posted by soccer mom, a resident of Midtown
on Apr 5, 2011 at 10:37 am

Did you know that there are lots of differences between how key school functions are handled at Paly and at Gunn? The start time and block scheduling are important differences that have a big impact on students. Another important difference is how Counseling services are operate. At Paly, Guidance Counselors are supplemented by Teacher Advisors. These Teacher Advisors serve as the primary contact person for students, parents and staff; conduct weekly advisories by grade level, facilitate academic planning and more. Gunn High School does not have this program. If you are interested in joining with other parents who would like to see a comprehensive plan for reducing stress at Gunn which includes evaluation of things like start times, scheduling and the counseling program AND a plan for effective implementation, fried Michelle Dauber on Facebook and join the movement - We Can Do Better Palo Alto. Because we can do better - our kids deserve it.

Posted by past parent, a resident of another community
on Apr 5, 2011 at 11:15 am

I had 4 kids go through Gunn. Anything that reduces stress, increases contact with teachers, counselors and the like, cultivates a shared community feeling, and allows for kids to have control over their environment is beneficial. Its long long overdue. I do not understand why even the smallest changes take such time and are so hard to implement even when there is good evidence that it would be helpful for the majority. Over and over again, we hear that its for the benefit of the student and yet, the evidence in many cases says otherwise. One size does not fit all - but perhaps flexibility and individuality could play a larger role.

With all the motivated students, parents and wonderful teachers, Gunn could provide a model environment about how to involve and accommodate our teenagers.

Palo Alto, you can do better.

Posted by Jane, a resident of Barron Park
on Apr 5, 2011 at 11:26 am

What is going to happen to these students when they have to go to college, and/or start working full time. How did my children ever survive (Gunn) and now find them selves up in time to Start work at 7:30AM after taking a bus to work or getting their kids up and to daycare before getting to work on time. And these were not children who were in easy classes, some AP classes with highly selective college prep. And they did/do not go to bed early to compete in these high stress(?) situations.

Posted by Grandma, a resident of Los Altos Hills
on Apr 5, 2011 at 11:27 am

There is a very good reason why Gunn has never implemented later start times. It has to do with coordinating start times with both Terman and Nixon. These schools use the same buses into LAH and Palo Alto Hills as Gunn.

Gunn must start earlier to give the buses time to turn around and pick up the elementary kids for Nixon.

If they are still using buses it will be necessary for Nixon to start later or the Gunn kids from the hills to be dropped off at Gunn for a 7:50 AM start time.

Posted by Gunn parent, a resident of Barron Park
on Apr 5, 2011 at 11:31 am

The Gunn schedule cannot be looked at in isolation. Along the Arastradero corridor, right now Gunn starts at 7:55, Terman 8:10 and Briones 8:15. Not sure about the start time of Bowman International School that shares the driveway with Terman.

Then there's the bus schedule for the kids who live in the hills (they pay for the bus). The buses serve Nixon, Terman and Gunn so those schedules are timed/linked together. And then there's the elem bus that serves both Briones & Barron Park, those schedules also are linked.

Not to say it can't be done, but changing the Gunn schedule does require much thought to the ripple effect both on campus and to the other schools, one of which is private.

I like the idea suggested above that some students might opt out of the first period classes to take classes later in the day.

Many issues are handled differently at the two high schools, just as is done at the 12 different elementary schools and 3 different middle schools. What is key is not that they are the same, for I know several Paly parents unhappy with the their TA system, but that each school works to best serve their students with their staff.

Posted by Mom, a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Apr 5, 2011 at 11:41 am

@Jane: You are comparing a teenager to a grown adult? They are different physically and mentally. You sound like the frat boys who claim it's okay to haze because everyone else went through it. Ignorance.

Posted by sigh, a resident of Downtown North
on Apr 5, 2011 at 11:58 am

@ Mom, I don't think Jane is comparing teenagers to adults. If anything she's comparing teenagers of today to those of yesteryear. I fully support the idea that a bit more sleep makes for a better learning environment for our young adults, but the idea that people are going to choose their start time seems a bit far fetched given that these young people will have to do things by a schedule whether artificial (set by a business or college) or natural if, say, they decide to do farming.

Posted by Gunn Mom, a resident of JLS Middle School
on Apr 5, 2011 at 12:33 pm

Please move the start time to a later time. It was an absolute torture with my older daughter (now in college and managing fine, the younger one is going to JLS next year and we are already fearing the earlier start. And I won't even get into the traffic issues!

Posted by Grandma, a resident of Los Altos Hills
on Apr 5, 2011 at 12:47 pm

This is a great example of the School District losing it's institutional memory. If Gunn starts later both Terman and Nixon will have to start later.

About every 10 years we go through this exercise and Nixon's teachers always refuse to start school 20 minutes later to accommodate Gunn starting 20 minutes later which will be required to leave the bus enough time to do it's round trip into the hills.

It takes the school bus almost 55 minutes to do the round trip via Page Mill Road; picking the Skyline kids up at the entrance to Foothill Park, and winding its way through the hills and back down to Terman and Nixon.

There are also huge problems at the other end of the day as Gunn students will be left waiting for the bus while it takes Nixon students home at a later time. Nixon teacher will say they will not be left enough time at the end of the day to prepare for the next school day.

Posted by Gunn parent, a resident of Barron Park
on Apr 5, 2011 at 12:57 pm

Thinking about the current Gunn schedule a bit more, the current rotating block schedule, which my child likes - where first period is a different class every day, wouldn't allow kids to opt out of first period.

Posted by another Gunn parent, a resident of Los Altos Hills
on Apr 5, 2011 at 1:20 pm

At last! My teens really can use the extra sleep! It would be nice if they could have an even later start time, say 10:00!

Posted by Observer, a resident of South of Midtown
on Apr 5, 2011 at 2:16 pm

The school bus problem is a red herring. It could be solved with the application of some common sense and some flexibility. And, by the way, no reason why Nixon or any other teachers should be allowed to monopolize a decision that affects many other people.

Posted by Gunn parent, a resident of Barron Park
on Apr 5, 2011 at 2:47 pm

Observer - that's easy for you to say! The school start times are interconnected, so in addition to what is best for the Gunn, the admin will have to take into consideration the start times of neighboring schools and the shared bus schedules. As Grandma pointed out, this is not the first time the subject has been brought up.

Posted by Thanks Dauber's, a resident of Barron Park
on Apr 5, 2011 at 3:48 pm

I agree too, this has to do with the editorial of the Dauber's. Finally the district is looking into changing the starting time. Paly students are enjoying this schedule, and our Gunn students deserve no less. This is another baby step to improve the social emotional needs of our students. There is a lot more changes that need to be done. Paly gets less homework because they have less classes in a day. So please parents ask the district to implement P-8 across the district. Jordan should have a time to socialize the first week of class, just like JLS and Terman. Even if some parents do not agree, our kids will be the ones to benefit. That's what the officials should be working for "the kids"

Posted by hooray!, a resident of Barron Park
on Apr 5, 2011 at 3:52 pm

I applaud the proposal. Starting Gunn at 8:20am or 8:30am would ease the morning pressure on our teens (and us parents). It's a step in the right direction.

Posted by Peter, a resident of Gunn High School
on Apr 5, 2011 at 3:54 pm

Please make the start time somewhere between 8:15 and 9am. By then, Terman students are all in classrooms, and the traffic is mostly for Gunn students. We would love it if this can be done soon. The kids need more sleep.

Posted by south PA Mom, a resident of South of Midtown
on Apr 5, 2011 at 4:01 pm

Congestion on Arastradero in he morning has been horrendous for YEARS--largely because the Gunn and Terman start times are so close together. The problem has been managed, to some minimal degree, by staggering bell times. Whatever the district does, I hope they will work very closely with the city to understand the important effects of bell time changes on public street traffic.

Let's sit down at a table and try to understand all of the pieces before we jump to any conclusions. This may be an opportunity to reduce street congestion caused by Gunn traffic surges and address sleep issues for the students who have that problem. (I know some who do not.)

If we could split the Gunn surge by as much as a third, it would make a huge difference in congestion.

Let's try to think outside the box. No more hyperbole...and no more dogmatic "my way or the highway" statements, please. That's not helpful. Let's really try to study and solve this complex set of problems.

Posted by bicyclist, a resident of South of Midtown
on Apr 5, 2011 at 9:32 pm

An easy solution to the traffic problem is to avoid driving. Most students should be able to bike, take a bus, or at least carpool. For many, students, bicycling takes less time than driving.

Posted by Misha, a resident of Midtown
on Apr 5, 2011 at 10:13 pm

Tom says te "key thing" is that nothing has been decided.

I beg to differ.

The key thing is that the kids need more sleep and something must be done about this.

The school department heads are talking about this. How about including parents, students, and traffic officials in this thinking? And setting a deadline for a proposal for change. Status quo should not be an option.

Posted by Amy Balsom, a resident of Gunn High School
on Apr 5, 2011 at 11:20 pm

It's wonderful to hear that this recommendation is being considered, but for how long does it need to be considered? A late start time has been on the table for several years, with ample evidence that it reduces stress, improves learning and makes for happier high schoolers! Let's hope this doesn't get squashed in the bowels of Gunn administration, never to see the light of day again.

Posted by parent, a resident of Barron Park
on Apr 6, 2011 at 7:48 am

What if Terman started at 8 and Gunn at 8:30?

Posted by parent, a resident of Barron Park
on Apr 6, 2011 at 7:55 am

LAH, PAH and Stanford parents, how about springing for another bus or arranging mandatory car pools. Then we might not have a bus problem and implementing later start time would be easier.

Posted by Sean Fergusson, a resident of another community
on Apr 6, 2011 at 9:19 am

Jane makes an important designation regarding time. Colleges and businesses do not adjust start times due to teenager sleeping times. Why can't parents simply unplug the TVs, computers, and take away cell phones and cars, and make the kids go to sleep earlier?

Posted by parent, a resident of Midtown
on Apr 6, 2011 at 10:26 am

the road condition needs change, and leave the rest to the school to decide.

Posted by george, a resident of Greenmeadow
on Apr 6, 2011 at 11:36 am

There is another alternative to getting enough sleep and still make the Gunn 7:45 AM start time. As Mr. Fergusson suggests - go to bed earlier. In the college and adult worlds people seem to adjust if they have to. C'mon parents. Exercise a little parenting.

Posted by Grandma, a resident of Los Altos Hills
on Apr 6, 2011 at 12:51 pm

PA Mom says: "Congestion on Arastradero in the morning has been horrendous for YEARS--largely because the Gunn and Terman start times are so close together."

This has been necessary because both Gunn and Terman students are bused from the hills on the same bus at the same time. It is the Nixon elementary students which are bused to school on a separate run 55 minutes later.

Bicyclist says: "An easy solution to the traffic problem is to avoid driving. Most students should be able to bike, take a bus, or at least carpool."

Students living in the hills as far away as Skyline Boulevard cannot bike to school. They either have to take a bus or carpool to Gunn and Terman. If you want to stagger the Gunn and Terman start times everyone from the hills will have to drive, and that will mean a whole lot more cars on Arastradero!!!

The solution to this problem will be for Nixon students to extend their start time by 20 minutes. The School District will then have to persuade the Nixon teachers to extend the school day and teach 20 minutes later in the afternoon which they have, until now, refused to do.

Or have the School District provide a second bus at their expense.

Posted by Another Happy Paly Mom, a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Apr 6, 2011 at 1:55 pm

@Mom "We LOVE the Paly block schedule. It has helped reduce stress. Initially, I thought the periods would be too long (and perhaps they are for ADD kids?) but my son loves it. The backpacks are lighter too. On Mondays when he carries books for all classes, it is HEAVY. The tutorial period on Thursdays is fantastic for students to visit teachers or work on homework."

We love the Paly block schedule also. We have an ADHD child and were concerned about the longer periods. The Paly admin recognized this issue and worked with teachers in advance on giving breaks and breaking up the period between lecturing and other activities for the benefit of all students. Luckily the longer periods have not been an issue for our child. on the other hand the block schedule helps ADHD students in having less classes to focus on each day and what appears to be less homemwork since teachers cannot assign it every day. It would be good to hear from other parents and students on the ADHD aspects of the block period.

One parent did make the point that the block period has removed the ability to opt out of first period to have a later start time since second period now starts at 8:15 twice a week. Perhaps Gunn can start at 9:30 to avoid the traffic issues and then Paly could rally for a 9:30AM start also. One can only dream.

Tutorial is great also. Both my kids prefer doing homework with friends. In addition to additional time and support for homework, tutorial affords another opportunity for kids to connect with teachers in a relaxed environment. Kids are allowed to go to any class during tutorial even if they are not enrolled in a class with that particular teacher.

Finally, thank you to the Daubers for stirring the pot and creating more opportunities to come together and exchange ideas so that we really can do better for our children.

Posted by Becky Burwell, a resident of Palo Verde
on Apr 13, 2011 at 11:22 am

We have two kids in JLS heading to Gunn in 1.5 years.

We strongly welcome a later start time.

They will be biking most days.

We both drive by Gunn to work and understand the congestion.

We believe our kids will be more awake and enjoy their school days with 25 minutes more sleep.

Posted by Dad of Gunn HS student, a resident of Gunn High School
on Jun 2, 2011 at 11:03 am

Delay in start time by 20-30 minutes will be definite plus. Most of the HS students stay late to finish their work and as such an additional 30 minutes of sleep will be very welcome.

Posted by Dad of Juana Briones student, a resident of Charleston Meadows
on Sep 10, 2011 at 12:16 am

To parents of Gunn students: your children are mortally endangered by the now close bell times of Gunn High and other schools in the area.

I'm a parent of Gunn's graduate and Juana Briones student. Every morning on my morning drive to school, I either observe or am involved in at least two "near accident" events involving Gunn students on bicycles.

Sometimes one of them slowly drifts over the bicycle lane boundary while listening to earphones, sometimes two or more of them ride side by side and accidentally push the leftmost kid into the traffic lane, and every morning more than one student suddenly swerves into the traffic lane to pass pedestrian students or slower bikers, almost universally without looking back to see if there is a car behind.

No matter how slowly we drive, and no matter how vigilant we are, it just humanly impossible to stop the car in time if a kid suddenly turns to the left right into the car's path. In one of such occasions, I had to evasively maneuver into the oncoming traffic lane, and was lucky that there were no oncoming cars right there and then. Sooner or later, a kid and a driver won't be so lucky, and someone is going to be seriously hurt or killed.

Naturally, I talked to Juana Briones principal about the situation. I have a great respect for that man, yet I also realized that he is harboring a tragic misconception. He doesn't believe that either he personally or Palo Alto school district will be ever held responsible in case a student is injured or killed during the now significantly more dangerous morning rush hour.

You see, the "public servants" still believe "the system" will protect them, no matter how significant is their contribution to a preventable human suffering. Well, that may have been true some time ago, yet times are changing. The public is becoming much less approving and much less tolerant of the governments action and inaction that results in injuries or deaths of the citizens. The "public servants" may need to consult with Mubarak on that subject ...

Posted by paly parent, a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Sep 10, 2011 at 11:25 am

I don't believe a principal or school district can be held responsible for the actions of the City or individual students, especially off campus. I suspect a bike rider disobeying the law and causing an accident CAN be held responsible for their own actions.

While I have not been around Gunn in the morning, I have had Paly students on bikes make left hand turns in front of my car at an intersection as I've gone thru, go thru stop signs and almost hit my car, nearly hit pedestians, etc. Jordan student ride 3-4 across in the bike lanes, chatting and going thru stop signs. The STUDENTS need to be as responsible and law-abiding as the drivers.

Posted by Paly Parent, a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Sep 10, 2011 at 12:42 pm

The thing to remember about cars driving around Gunn and Paly is that they are often driven by students with permits under the guidance of parents.

On my bike ride to back to school night I was forced off my bike by a car turning right in front of me. The passenger (mother) in the car said to me that I should understand because the driver was only 16!

I had no way of knowing that the driver was only 16 and under supervision of a passenger who was possibly busy with the papers on her lap showing which classroom she had to go to first! A student driver under the supervision of her father damaged several cars in Stanford shopping center parking lot recently.

Near high schools the cars are much more unpredictable, as are the bikes, because the cars are being driven by those who often ride their bikes along similar roads and in similar fashion.

Posted by D, a resident of Charleston Meadows
on Sep 10, 2011 at 1:29 pm

Principals and school district can't be held responsible? Really? Who is responsible then?

It used to be that the vast majority of Gunn bicyclists would be already at school when the traffic spike to Juana Briones was just starting. But not this year. In their "infinite wisdom", the school officials made it so that the Gunn and Juana Briones morning traffic spikes now coincide perfectly in space and time.

It used to be that parents could drop off their kids at Juana Briones at any time within the 30 minutes interval before the bell. But not this year. Now the interval is shrunk to 15 minutes - parents are told that school is not responsible for children who arrive earlier - there will be no one on the ground to call for medical help in case of need for instance.

How come the Palo Alto high school kids, with average IQ arguably highest in the nation for their age, are not taught to observe basic traffic safety rules? Was that in the curriculm? Was that in the curriculum often enough to reinforce the behavior? Who developed the curriculum? Who taught it? Who gave the passing grades?

Why Califonia traffic laws regarding byciclistsn are not enforced near and around the schools? Who made the decision to ignore frequent, blatant, everyday violations? Who is personally responsible for enforcing traffic laws in these areas at those times? Who is responsible for deciding not to deploy officers in these locations, despite repetitive warmings from parents?

When a kid get hurt, all these and many other questions will be asked. This is a very dangerous situation. Everybody I talked to who has to drive near the Briones in the morning rush could "smell the gas". Do we have to wait till it blows up and young innocent lives are lost? Is Palo Alto just another San Bruno?

Can't we just face a simple fact that school officials made a series of mistakes that need to be corrected ASAP? If they are unwilling to acqnowledge and correct them, it is our - the parents - responsibility to make sure these people are promptly replaced. In this economy, there should be plenty of more considerate school officials willing to take their positions.

Posted by Agree in part, a resident of Meadow Park
on Sep 11, 2011 at 6:45 am

D: Agree in part. I am appalled at the number of kids I see riding bikes WITHOUT HELMETS right past the officers... The kids take this to mean that it is fine to ride without helmets.

I wish we could have help from our officers to ticket the kids and give teeth to our home rules.

Posted by paly parent, a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Sep 11, 2011 at 9:59 am

D/Dad - The change in start time was for the good of the high school students, not the convenience or inconvenience of the local drivers. It is the District's responsibility to do what is best for the students. Teenagers are not morning people, the extra sleep helps reduce stress.

The District and the school principals are responsible for the students when they are on campus. YOU are responsible for your student as a parent and should instruct them on safe bike riding.

Bike safety is taught by most of the PAUSD schools in 3rd grade.

Schools are not responsible for your student before or after school. The fact that Juana Briones staff is willing to supervise students at all before school is a nice thing. Teachers are busy getting ready for their class at that time. To expect the school to "babysit" your child for 30 minutes, unpaid, it unrealistic. When my kids were little and one sibling got out 25 minutes earlier than the other, parents took turns supervising the kids on campus, we did not expect the staff to do so.

That said, a reminder to all the middle and high school students about appropriate bike safety would be great. The elementary kids seem to be much safer riders. I would also love to see the police ticketing bikes in the morning for their unsafe behavior.

Posted by Me Too, a resident of Midtown
on Sep 11, 2011 at 10:39 am

@D - I assume that the problem is the cars of JB parents competing with the bikes from Gunn (on Los Robles?). If so, perhaps you and the other parents can arrange to take turns watching kids on campus for 15 minutes in the morning, and then you can drop off a little earlier. Or perhaps you can organize car pools to cut down on the traffic. Or promote more walking/biking to school.

I tend to agree that the stream of Gunn bikers is sometimes hard to handle (I yelled "STOP" at the 50th biker to blow through a stop sign while I was waiting to turn - she did and it turned out to be the quite embarrassed friend of one of my daughters). But it is hard to change their behavior permanently.

You can try to replace the school board over this or get Gunn to change its start time, but my sense is that those are a lot more effort and may not succeed.

Posted by D, a resident of Juana Briones School
on Sep 11, 2011 at 8:30 pm

Yes, supervising students before class by their parents is a good idea. Done it before and considering doing it again.

I'm very saddened by the fact that not everyone understands the gravity of the situation. To better understand it, travel on Maybell and Los Robles From El Camino toward Gunn at 7:30 a.m. You will encounter virtually empty streets - this is the environment Gunn bicyclists used to travel in - for years. Now try the same at 8:05. You'll see dense streams of cars and bicyclists touching and intersecting each other seemingly every second.

The school district put children in a very dangerous environment suddenly and without preparation. The children keep behaving how they used to behave on streets almost devoid of cars. As to whether or not the school district is responsible, this will be tested in courts, when a kid gets killed or disfigured on Maybell or Los Robles during the morning ride. Given the frequency of near-collision events seen by me and reported by other parents, it won't be long till that happens.

Posted by stressful, a resident of South of Midtown
on Sep 12, 2011 at 10:00 am

Those solutions are superfacial,just for the feel good feelings.What about teaching our school students that we can not ask ourselves to be number 1 or on the top on everything,including love relationships,scores,academics,sports.if one wants to be on the top everytime,then he will become very tired on his journey of life.We should learn to be the second,the third...

Posted by not working, a resident of Gunn High School
on Sep 12, 2011 at 8:30 pm

I find the same thing is happening on East Meadow. Now there is double the number of bikes on East Meadow (kids going to JLS at the same time kids are going to Gunn). To top it off, the buses have to pull over while tons of bikes are in the bike lane. Just waiting for an accident to happen.

And now we have 30 minutes less time in the evenings to get homework done.

Posted by D, a resident of Juana Briones School
on Sep 13, 2011 at 11:33 pm

Below is email I sent tonight. If you share my position, please join the email campaign.


Save Palo Alto Children!

To the attention of:
Katya Villalobos, Principal, Gunn High School
Matthew Nagle, Principal, Juana Briones Elementary School
Kevin Skelly, Superintendent, Palo Alto Unified School District
Dennis Burns, Chief of Police, Palo Alto
Planning and Transportation Commission, Palo Alto

This is an alert about abnormally dangerous conditions that Gunn High School and Juana Briones pedestrian and bike commuters have been subjected to since the start of this school year.

You are the people responsible for the series of well-meant actions, unintended consequences of which are threatening health and lives of Palo Alto schoolchildren.

Specific actions in question: limiting throughput capacity of Arastradero, putting close together bell times of public schools along that corridor, and not enforcing bike traffic laws in that area.

The situation is further exacerbated by circumstances beyond your control, such as closure of Peninsula Day Care, which acted as a schoolchildren gradual morning collection and safe delivery service.

I urge you to observe the extreme imperilment of children first-hand, by standing on the corner of El Camino and Maybell, or El Camino and Los Robles, between 8:00 and 8:15 a.m. on schooldays.

On one hand, there are Gunn pedestrians and byciclists, over the years conditioned to move rather carelessly along the streets virtually devoid of cars between 7:15 and 7:45 a.m.

On the other hand, there are Juana Briones parents in cars: rushing, speeding, pushed to drop their kids at the school within a 12-minute interval, while combating horrendous traffic jams.

In case of a collision during the morning rush, the streets around the accident site will quickly gridlock, and medics may not be able to reach the injured or dying child in time.

You are the very people empowered to turn this dangerous tide wave around. Only your swift, coordinated, and decisive actions can prevent injuries and deaths of Palo Alto schoolchildren!

You have our trust and respect, please use it wisely.

Sergei Lopatin,
A concerned parent.

Posted by D, a resident of Juana Briones School
on Sep 14, 2011 at 9:08 am

Received an answer from Gunn's principal, reproduced below in its entirety. It is a matter of public record now: she is not considering rolling back the bell time change, and instead of fixing what she was directly responsible for, she is trying to pass the buck to the Palo Alto police, parents, and students.


Dear Mr. Lapotin,

Thank you for the email and sharing your concerns. First, please know that we have received feedback around this issue and have alerted our Palo Alto Police Department Resource Officer and PAPD, who will or have increased patrols around the area. Second, we have also informed our parents and students on the importance of traffic safety. Third, this school year in partnership with our Gunn student leadership and Parent-Teacher-Student Association, we are planning an awareness campaign on traffic safety for our cyclists and student drivers.

Finally, thank you for the email and again, please know the safety of ALL our students is our primary concern and thank you for sharing your students with us.

Katya Villalobos

Henry M. Gunn High School
780 Arastradero Road
Palo Alto, CA 94306
650-493-7801 (FAX)

"Leadership and learning are indispensable to each other."
"Inspire the love of learning"--life long asset.

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