Palo Alto children head back to school

Excitement, dread on the first day of school

Tonayah Brown hopped on the Embarcadero Shuttle, grinning as she plopped down in the seat next to her friend Kerissa Almendis. Hip-hop music blasted from the shuttle's speakers and Tonayah, a Jordan Middle School student, sang along.

The two girls chattered excitedly about what it took to rise early on the first day of school.

"I set my clock for 6:30 and I woke up at 7," Kerissa said.

Tonayah and Kerissa were among the nearly 12,000 students heading back to Palo Alto public schools this morning. All along the sidewalks and roads of Palo Alto, children and their parents trekked from homes to schools.

Two children on bicycles kept pace with the shuttle on Webster Street. Brightly decorated in fluorescent vests and Hello Kitty bike helmets, the children led the procession of young pedestrians and bicyclists heading to Jordan and Walter Hays Elementary School.

Tonayah and Kerissa talked about their elevated status as seventh graders.

"Now we get to make fun of them," Tonayah said, recalling being at the bottom of the pecking order during the last school year.

"I'm really excited to see everybody. I'm eager to get there. My school is really fun and I hope I get good teachers," she said. Plus, "this year I won't feel like the smallest person in the school."

Kerissa sat back with ear buds in, volume turned up on her iPod. Last night she didn't sleep much, anticipating the first day of school, she said.

Emily Dorward, a Palo Alto High School 11th grader, also got little sleep, she said.

"It was dread," she said.

The end of summer, going back to school, "it's surreal," she said. "The last time -- last year -- it was this hot on the first day of school. I knew it was going to be this way," she said with the nonchalance of a seasoned pro.

Crossing guards, dressed in yellow vests as bright as the sun, halted traffic as the hordes of kids rushed with eager expressions toward the school grounds. The shuttle bus rattled and thumped, turning deftly around the corner from Newell Road to North California Avenue. The girls' excitement was palpable.

"Oh my GOD!" they gasped, as the bus pulled to a stop. They rushed through the shuttle's doors shrieking and ran toward the campus.

The shuttle driver smiled. Another school year has begun.

Related stories:

Back to school: Teens offer advice

New principals, new construction to greet students

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Like this comment
Posted by drive carefully!
a resident of Midtown
on Aug 24, 2010 at 10:26 am

Please car drivers, stop at the stop signs and obey the speed limits on school days. There are lots of kids walking to school and too many get hit by cars who run stop signs.

Like this comment
Posted by Crungeon
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Aug 24, 2010 at 10:53 am

I hope the parents dropping off and picking up their kids are more aware of their surroundings this year.

I live near Middlefield and Embarcadero. It's amazing how many parents can't seem to recognize what a driveway is and end up parking right in front of mine.

I've left notes on car windshields with arrows pointing to the driveway and telling them to stop blocking it.

Please, parents, have a clue.

Like this comment
Posted by Mom
a resident of Jordan Middle School
on Aug 24, 2010 at 11:16 am

"Now we get to make fun of them," the girls are quoted as saying. Girls are so crazy nowadays. Why? Not enough nurturing parents.

Like this comment
Posted by Walking, Biking Mom
a resident of South of Midtown
on Aug 24, 2010 at 11:35 am

About half of PAUSD students walk or bike to school, so THOUSANDS are children are out there during school commute times. Please share the road safely.

Like this comment
Posted by School
a resident of Charleston Gardens
on Aug 24, 2010 at 11:48 am

I'm at school right now, and i would like to point out the fact that the genre that they were listening to from the radio would be *commercial garbage advertisement. Not hip hop, real hip hop is not played on the radio.

Like this comment
Posted by parent of students
a resident of South of Midtown
on Aug 24, 2010 at 11:48 am

It's wonderful Jordan and Pali students use the shuttle to get to school. WHY ISN'T THE SHUTTLE AVAILABLE TO GUNN STUDENTS? Gunn has the added challenge of having less parking this year due to construction preparations. Similar services should be offered throughout the UNIFIED Palo Alto school district, not just in the north part of Palo Alto.

Like this comment
Posted by watchful...
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Aug 24, 2010 at 11:50 am

I just finished my driving exam and did you know that it is illegal
to park blocking a driveway even if it is your own? i used to walk
7 blocks to go to school, what's with all this driving? Yes, I am
an ancient person...i may have gotten this way by all the exercise,
ancient and healthy.

Like this comment
Posted by Paul scaruffi
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Aug 24, 2010 at 12:20 pm

Please Palo Alto parents be careful while driving, my son will be biking back home without a helmet. His head is too big to fit the helmet.

Like this comment
Posted by palo alto mom
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Aug 24, 2010 at 12:35 pm

Parent of Students - The shuttle is not available to Gunn students because the City of Palo Alto doesn't think there needs to be a shuttle in that part of town. I agree that it would be great for all the students to have access to the shuttle, but the City runs the shuttle and decides where it goes, not the school district.

Like this comment
Posted by Michele
a resident of Greenmeadow
on Aug 24, 2010 at 12:37 pm

Paul please head over to Target or one of the many bike shops on El Camino tonight and buy him a new helmet - he is actually breaking the law, plus he really needs a helmet to be safe from brain injury if he is in a crash.

Like this comment
Posted by Resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Aug 24, 2010 at 12:58 pm

1. There will be more kids on the roads near JLS/Fairmeadow/Hoover because the library entrance to Mitchell Park is closed off to all traffic - including pedestrians and bikes.

2. Gunn has shuttles and VTA. Paly has a shuttle for some students, but those in South Palo Alto who go to Paly have no shuttle and no VTA. A large chunk of South Palo Alto go to Paly.

3. The increased traffic is because of parents driving kids to school, and many do not carpool. Get your kids out of cars and onto shuttles/vta/bicycles or their feet. That is what will make the roads safer for kids getting to school.

4. Alma and Arastradero both have road alterations causing problems to drivers who are not used to narrower lanes. Both these roads will be jammed. Don't make it worse by driving your kids to school.

Like this comment
Posted by Gunn transit services
a resident of Gunn High School
on Aug 24, 2010 at 12:59 pm

Gunn High School has the benefit of the VTA 88 bus routes, including the 88L and 88M. Each day well over 100 students take these buses to and from Gunn High School. The Palo Alto Shuttle service to Gunn was replaced by VTA bus service in part because the Palo Alto Shuttle had a lack of capacity, and there was a safety issue with overcrowding.

The Embarcadero Shuttle also serves the Caltrain station and is subsidized by Caltrain and some businesses on Embarcadero Road past 101. The City of Palo Alto pays the remainder of the costs.

VTA bus service is subsidized by County sales tax. Gunn High School also subsidizes the cost of bus passes for Gunn students, by using parking revenue.

Palo Alto cut in half the crosstown shuttle service (it is now hourly instead of every 30 minutes) as part of balancing the budget this year.

Like this comment
Posted by pecuniac
a resident of Midtown
on Aug 24, 2010 at 2:17 pm

Please instruct your kids to ride bikes on the RIGHT side of the street, not on the sidewalk. Ditto for older adults who are setting a bad example for kids when they bike on sidewalks in the wrong direction. Backing out of a driveway onto a busy street with kids on bikes is made more difficult with neighbor's foliage in the way.

And for you Mommyzillas, leave early enough so you dont have to break every traffic safety rule so you can get your special precious to school on time!!

Like this comment
Posted by Observer
a resident of South of Midtown
on Aug 24, 2010 at 2:45 pm

I hope everyone riding, walking, driving, or taking a bus will be careful. If all the bike riders in town would observe the traffic laws, stop at stop signs, ride on the correct side of the street, not barrel out into roads, driveways and alleys without using proper precautions, we'd all be safer. Every time I drive in this town I have to stop for a bike rider who darts out in front of me or ignores the stop sign or rides the wrong way. I don't want to hit anyone on a bike, but these things make it very difficult not to. Oh, and please fasten the helmet. It may be a fashion statement to have the buckle flapping, but you will be badly injured in an accident if it flies off before you hit the ground.

Like this comment
Posted by mkyr
a resident of Evergreen Park
on Aug 29, 2010 at 12:16 pm

Actually, as a daily bike commuter, I have more of an issue with drivers around Palo Alto. I obey all traffic laws, share the road kindly, signal when necessary and never dart out in front of cars. Conversely, I've had drivers hit me (ended last school year with a major bike crash that had me in the ER) and then drive off, see me signal and step on the gas, cutting me off when it is my right of way (i'm a defensive biker so I see it coming) and most recently, flipped off--yes, actually flipped off-- when attempting to signal left on a busy downtown street just because the driver needed to be first. He saw me, stuck out his middle finger and kept on barreling across Waverly at Hamilton. I know better because I'm an adult, because I'm careful when I bike and because I automatically assume that no one's going to give me the right of way even when it is mine. I worry constantly about kids biking around here because people don't stop.

Sorry, but further commenting on this topic has been closed.

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