Safe Routes Snapshots: Skinner Road School's Grass "Routes" Effort, Vernon, CT

Safe Routes Snapshots provides a brief profile of a Safe Routes to School state or local program that highlights a particular success or issue the program faced. To submit your program for Safe Routes Snapshots, please email news@saferoutesinfo.org.

Background

Photo of children in Mount Vernon, Conn.Skinner Road School is in Vernon, Conn. As a kindergarten to fifth grade school, it supports 330 racially and economically diverse students. In 2003, Skinner Road School had the lowest testing scores in the district. At this time, the school also had poor fitness test scores, with only 9 percent of fourth graders passing all four parts of the fitness test. In 2006, school staff and parent volunteers initiated Skinner Road School's first Safe Routes to School (SRTS) program with the belief that healthier students will learn better.

Details

To begin the SRTS program, the school had to gain support from a variety of potential partners in the community. These partners included the superintendent, the bus coordinator, the Vernon Police Department, the Department of Public Works, teachers and parents. All of these entities worked together to develop and implement a SRTS program that benefits the students and the community and promotes physical health and improved academic performance.

In 2006 and 2007, the school participated in International Walk to School Day. Prior to the event, posters and signs promoting the event and encouraging participation were placed throughout the school grounds. On the day before the event, the students received wristbands to remind them of the upcoming Walk to School Day. On the day of the event, all of the students were encouraged to meet at a designated location and walk to school together. The meeting points were sidewalk areas at intersections less than one mile north and south of the school. If the children lived too far from school to walk, they rode the bus to the designated drop-off area and then walked to school. Once all the children arrived at the drop-off points, the volunteers led them to school, where the cafeteria employees served breakfast that the students could take to class with them.

During their work on the SRTS program, the SRTS planners identified effective strategies for recruiting participants and holding successful events. Strategies including distributing a newsletter and reminder notes to the students' homes, directly contact parents via phone or in person and sending invitations to key public officials.

In addition to the International Walk to School Day events, Skinner Road School has several ongoing SRTS-related activities throughout the school year, such as bi-monthly Walking Wednesday events. Throughout the school year, messages on the importance of physical activity and how to walk to school safely are incorporated into the classroom curriculum. Also, activities encouraging wellness and exercise are incorporated into recess times and extracurricular activities.

Results

A goal of Skinner Road's Walk to School Day was for one school bus, typically filled with children, to be empty. On the day of the event, Oct. 3, 2007, the school officials exceeded their goal by having two empty school buses and more than 300 students, which is 94 percent of the student body walking to school the day of the event.

With the incorporation of healthy messages and activities into all aspects of the school, from recess to the classroom and to the journey to and from school, Skinner Road School has seen a marked improvement in the health of its students. In 2004, Skinner Road School had 2.4 percent of its students passing all four parts of the fourth grade fitness test. This number increased to 36 percent in 2006 and then to 42 percent in 2007.

The SRTS program began with the belief that healthier children learn better, and this belief turned into reality with the students' improved academic performance. Once among the poorest performing schools in the district, now Skinner Road School is among the best schools. From 2006 to 2007, the school demonstrated significant improvements in mathematics, reading and writing among students in the third, fourth and fifth grade. While walking and bicycling to school is not the only factor contributing to the improved fitness and academic scores, the administration at Skinner Road School believes the SRTS program is partly to thank.

To read the complete case study on Skinner Road School, please visit www.saferoutesinfo.org/data-central/success-stories/vernon-connecticut-grass-“routes”-effort.