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Helping Kids Get To School Safely With ‘Walking School Bus’ Programs

 

Walking to class is nothing new for kids who live in close proximity to their schools, but more students are now finding themselves traveling to school in organized groups known as “walking school buses.” The practice of having a group of children walk to school together with adult chaperones is catching on cities with a community to effort to ensure that all students get to school safely. Not only does it help connect the community, but helps to decrease chronic tardiness and provides kids with a little bit of exercise before heading off to class.

The practice has caught on in both suburban areas where sidewalks might not be abundant, as well as inner-cities where children walking to school alone could be exposed to crime.

The walking school bus program is a godsend for parents of young children who may not be able to walk their kids to school each day.

“She gets to school happy and she gets home happy, Dannie Stubbs, the father of second-grader My’asia Stubbs told the Baltimore Sun. The city only provides bus service to students who live more than a mile from their school and while Mr. Stubbs and his daughter are close to her school, he’s unable to take her each morning and fears she could be exposed to crime if she walks alone. She now travels to and from school each day with around 10 classmates and three adult chaperones. The students sing and play games on their way to and from class each morning and afternoon.

“The top concern of parents is how kids would travel safely to and from school,” Larry Schugam, executive vice president of the Curriculum Project which runs My’asia��s charter school, said. “We learned about walking school buses and identified that as one of the solutions.”

Las Vegas schools began implementing their own program with parent volunteers to help out with the problem of student tardiness and absences.  “Some were tardy because they had a hard time getting up (in the morning),” Traci Traasdahl, coordinator of the program for Vegas’ Clark County School District, told the Las Vegas Sun. “We had some cases where they were walking by themselves and were just late.”

Jennifer Spring, the superintendent of Cohoes City Schools in Troy, New York echoed similar sentiments for implementing a walking school bus program to help out parents and cut down on chronic absenteeism. “This program builds a healthy community and offers parents a convenient option for getting their children safely to school on time,” Spring said.  

Students in the programs are generally required to meet at designated pickup locations along the various 10 to 15 minute walking routes to school. Parents who volunteer for the program have identifying vests that they wear and pick designated days to walk with students. Volunteers are also educated about giving kids tips on crosswalks and street safety. Traasdahl said that so far the Las Vegas program has been successful with students getting to class on time and that they’re even taking baby steps towards implementing a “bicycling bus” program.

Article by Joel Stice, Education World Contributor

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