The idea of kids walking to school has for years been put in the category of a rare occasion or nostalgic tales of past days. Those kids who live close enough to walk to school, rarely do, and the perceived and actual safety concerns are a major factor.
A solution is quickly spreading to try to resolve this issue. Many communities across the U.S. have started Walking School Bus programs.
A Walking School Bus is like a regular school bus, without the motor powered transportation. Approved adults (“the drivers”) starts out walking and picks up kids at designated stops or in front of their homes. The group all walks the same route to school and back each day. Usually when these programs start, one or two days a week are designated walking days, but it can expand to every day if enough people get involved.
When reading the East Lawrence Neighborhood Association’s newsletter last week, I came across a letter from Bonnie Cherry with AmeriCorps, who has secured funding to make a Walking School Bus program happen for at least part of the East Lawrence community.
I emailed Bonnie, and she agreed to let me publish her letter so others could learn about and be involved in planning the program.
An organization/planning meeting for those interested will be held at New York Elementary on Thursday, Feburary 17th at 6:30PM in the library.
I will be attending, and I hope any other interested people in East Lawrence or Lawrence in general will attend.
Here is Bonnie’s letter:
Dear members of ELNA:
A plan is in the works for an exciting new project for East Lawrence: New York Elementary is partnering with Douglas County Housing, Inc. to implement a permanent, neighborhood-wide Walking School Bus!
Studies show that 60 minutes of daily activity will help kids to build and maintain healthy bones and muscles, reduce the risk of developing obesity and chronic diseases, reduce feelings of depression anxiety, and ensure that kids are awake and alert when they begin their school day. We believe that a Walking School Bus will provide this healthy physical activity while ensuring the safety of children as they walk together in a group and while serving as a visible, colorful, fun way to engage our neighborhood every day.
We already have an overwhelming amount of support from local businesses and community organizations, including LiveWell Lawrence, from whom we have received a grant for safety gear, training, and youth incentives. It is our hope that this successful program will serve as a model for the rest of the district and lead to federal funding for sidewalk repair in East Lawrence, the building of bike lanes, and pedestrian safety training for all of Lawrence through the federal Safe Routes to School Program.
To plan a successful and fun program which will benefit everybody, we need community input and involvement! We will be presenting more information about the Walking School Bus at New York Elementary on Thursday, February 17th at 6:30 p.m in the library.
Your help is needed to:
- Determine the safest, most convenient routes and “bus stops” for children and families.
- Recruit more “bus drivers”: parents and community volunteers who are willing to walk and have fun!
- Talk about safety, visibility, and how this can help our school, our kids, and our community!
Thanks to Bonnie for getting this program going.
If you have any ideas, thoughts or comments on this program, please feel free to share them in our comments section.
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