The community of Montpelier, VT, is promoting a different “Way To Go,” through an assortment of incentives and partnerships designed to help the program sustain itself in the future.
“Awareness is growing,” said Bill Merrylees, Wellness Coordinator for Community Connections, a non-profit after-school program that serves nine schools in two districts.
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.
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.
Alpine Elementary School, a K–6th grade school with 780 students, is part of Utah’s Alpine School District, the lowest funded school district in the nation. The primary barrier to walking to school had been traffic congestion, but that changed in 2008 when a man attempted to abduct a 6th-grade student on her way to school. The student successfully escaped and told an adult crossing guard what happened, but the fear from that incident created another hurdle to creating a Safe Routes to School program.
Neighborhoods and schools in Taylor will be connected with a 2.4-mile pedestrian and bike path to make the way to school safer for elementary, middle and high school students.
Taylor has a growing population of approximately 18,000, and it is part of the Austin metropolitan area. Its economy is based on both agriculture and manufacturing. The community within Williamson County takes pride in its ethnic diversity.
Rosa Guerrero Elementary is a Title 1 neighborhood school, and 75 percent of the 850 students live within walking distance of the school. Sidewalks lead to the school, and approximately 30 percent of the students have permission from their parents to walk to school. The majority of Guerrero Elementary School’s student population is Hispanic, which means that 90 percent of the students are at risk for obesity, according to PTA SRTS Coordinator Lorraine Maiella.