Safe Routes to School coordinators at State Street School listened to parents while developing a program anchored by walking school buses that address worries about safety of children walking and bicycling to school.
Results from the locally administered parent survey showed that parents’ biggest barrier was fear of stranger danger and traffic speed, according to physical education teacher Donna Ewald, who spearheaded the SRTS effort. Creating walking school buses provided adult supervision for students walking to school.
Putney Central School is a kindergarten through eighth grade school in Putney, Vermont, a rural area with a town population of approximately 2,600 residents. Most of the students who attend Putney Central live a good distance from the school, and the combination of distance, unsafe drivers and lack of sidewalks prevent children from walking or bicycling there.
Since 2006, the number of walking school buses at Green Street School in Brattleboro, Vermont, has more than tripled, thanks to parents’ steady support of Safe Routes to School.
“The biggest barrier we faced and still face is the culture of driving kids to school,” said Alice Charkes, SRTS coordinator for Green Street School and a high school French teacher. “Most folks think it’s faster to drive to school and more convenient.” She believes that is primarily a perception rather than a reality.
Three years ago Principal Edgar Miranda moved from Rochester, NY to Arlington, VA, and he rented a home in the neighborhood near Ashlawn Elementary School where he would work.
It wasn’t long before a first-grader asked him, “ ‘Can you walk with us to school?’ ” Miranda recalled. “How can you say no?”
He joined students in his neighborhood, and they walked to school together — unofficially.
Alexandria, VA, is a compact city with more than 128,000 residents living in a 15 square mile area. Many of the city’s 13 elementary schools, two middle schools and one high school have been encouraging walking and bicycling to school and working to increase safety around the schools for several years before the Safe Routes to School (SRTS) program began in 2006.
Plain City, UT, is a small town of about 5,000 citizens. On June 27, 2006, the Weber County School District passed a bond to build a new elementary school in Plain City. The new school’s location is near three large subdivisions, which increased the number of students who walk to school from 270 students at the school’s old location to 420 students at the new location. Although the school is within walking distance, the narrow access road that leads to it poses access and safety issues for both pedestrians and motor vehicles.
The kindergarten through sixth grade students at Shelley Elementary School in American Fork, UT, have no bus system to take them to and from school.
The only buses available are intended for the pre-kindergarten students and those students in special education, which means the remainder of the student population, totaling 1,021 children, must walk, bicycle or carpool to school.