SB328 has again been reintroduced by Senator Portantino to the California State Legislature, after its narrow defeat last year. This bill would mandate that all secondary school start times move to 8:30am or later.  Cupertino Safe Routes to School opposes this well-meaning legislation as it will create undesirable impacts on school commutes in Cupertino and the surrounding cities.

In Cupertino, school start times are staggered in part to help traffic surges at start times and minimize their effect on school commuters.  This is especially at larger secondary schools that share commute routes such as Monta Vista High and Kennedy Middle School. Our schools and commute routes are not designed to handle the higher volumes of car traffic resulting from a single start time for Cupertino middle and high schools. This creates risk for kids who walk and bike and adds to congestion in our city during peak work traffic time. It may seem counter-intuitive, but making all the schools start at 8:30am or later may result in Cupertino students getting up earlier because their commutes are longer due to the increased congestion.

Proponents cite sleep deprivation by students as the reason for the state-wide bill.  Better-rested teenagers suffer less depression, fewer sports injuries and lower rates of traffic accidents. As Senator Portantino has stated previously, “If we want healthy kids and healthy schools, we should have a healthy start time based on science, biology and results,” He points to scientific evidence that shows as many as two thirds of teenagers suffer from sleep deprivation. The American Medical Association has backed the Start School Later nationwide campaign, and CAPTA supported the bill based on the sleep deprivation data.

Opponents of the bill find this is an example of over-reach by the California Legislature. As the Los Angles Time Editorial Board states, “legislators can’t possibly understand the unique circumstances in each of the state’s more than 1,000 school districts…The state should keep hands off unless there is a compelling reason to change things.”  The California School Boards Association agree, stating that school start time should be under the purview of local elected school boards, not the state Legislature.

When the bill was last up for a vote, the City of Cupertino partnered with the City of Palo Alto to request revised language that would provide flexibility for districts such as ours that need to stagger start times to enable safe, active school commutes. The proposed amendment was rejected, but the City of Cupertino plans to take this step again. now that the bill has been reintroduced. Cupertino Safe Routes to School is asking concerned local parents to contact their Assembly Members to recommend voting no on SB328.

If you support the defeat of this bill, please contact your local State Assembly Member. Cupertino’s representative is Evan Low, who can be reached at 408-446-2810 or 916-319-2028. Voting is expected early next week. This post was created by the author as a private citizen, and does not reflect the views of any other organization than Walk-Bike Cupertino.