Early start times at local schools worsen traffic around NDB


The Catalyst / Molly Phan

Traffic on Ralston in the mornings was made significantly worse with local schools starting around the same time.

In 2019, California lawmakers approved a rule mandating that public schools can start no earlier than 8 a.m. for middle schools and 8:30 a.m. for high schools, in attempts to help teenagers get more sleep. On July 1, 2022, the law became formally effective for the 2022-2023 school year.

For a teen, waking up early in the morning and trying to retain information can be a challenge. Studies have shown that teenagers find retaining information early in the morning more difficult than adults do.

Along with teenagers having a hard time waking up in the morning and being academically ready, sleep deprivation can also cause sleepy drivers. This can cause a danger for the student driving, as well as with everyone else on the road.

“I am really glad that NDB does not start before 8:30,” said senior Gianna Balestrino. “When I was in middle school, I had to leave at 7:30 a.m. to get there by 8 a.m. Now that my high school starts at 8:30 in the morning, I can sleep in later, avoid rushing in the morning and feel more awake all day.”

Although the later start times can have a lot of positive effects on students and their health, there are also some downsides, namely traffic.

In Belmont, multiple local high schools and middle schools all start around the same time, increasing traffic on main roads like Ralston Avenue. NDB has maintained its 8:30 a.m start time for many years, while Carlmont HS recently changed its start time from around 9 a.m. to 8:30 a.m. With Ralston, Fox, Tierra Linda, Charles Armstrong and IHM elementary and middle schools, which all start between 8 and 8:30 a.m., there are many cars on the road causing traffic delays for students trying to get to school.

“Depending on the day, it can vary from anywhere from five to 15 or more students being late,” said Student Services Coordinator Barbara Tauskey. “As an example, the day after Labor Day, there were 23 students that were late. Students need to be leaving home earlier. It is always best to leave your home earlier than you normally do knowing that the traffic on Ralston is a parking lot.”

While a lot of students who live within a few miles of the school have found backroads and do not get stuck often, the main traffic can negatively affect students who live further away.

“With all the traffic, it takes me about 25 minutes to get to school from where I live, Emerald Hills,” said NDB senior Cristine Niswander. “Last year, when schools close to NDB began at various times, I didn’t need to leave my house very early. The traffic has significantly risen since the schools all begin at the same time, and I now have to leave much earlier than I would want. When I leave my house too late, the traffic is highly irritating and incredibly inconvenient.”

For new student drivers, these major delays are an added responsibility and call for time management.

“I live in San Bruno and my middle school was a block away,” said junior Amber Holloway. “Now that I am a junior and can drive, I have a lot more responsibilities. I have to leave really early to avoid all the traffic and I am always super tired on the road to school.”
While students appreciate later start times, they are frustrated with the traffic-related consequences that come with them.