Safe Routes to School Program

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Walking to School is no Longer Old School

walking to school“Walking to school gives me an opportunity to connect not only with other parents, but especially with my 6 year old son and to find out how school is going for him”.  – Cottage Street School Parent

You want your kids to have some of the same experiences you had growing up, but in today’s world that’s not always possible. Listening to music on the record player and playing outside until the street lights come on are a rarity in most communities. But what about walking to school? It’s a challenge for many families as the dynamic has changed over the past 20 years to a much more hectic and scheduled lifestyle. Somehow walking to school, among other things, got lost in the shuffle.

According to the Safe Routes to School Program, an initiative of the Massachusetts Department of Transportation to encourage and support kids walking and biking to school, in 1969, 89% of students in grades K through eight walked or biked to school. In 2009, only 35% of students in grades K through eight walked or biked to school. Those numbers continue to drop.

Walking School Buses may be the perfect answer to address your nostalgia by letting your child walk to school in a way that can accommodate one’s hectic lifestyle. Here is the what, why, where and how on Walking School Buses.

What is a Walking School Bus?
A Walking School Bus is a group of children walking to school with one or more adults. It can be as informal as two families taking turns walking their children to school or as structured as a planned route with meeting points, a timetable and a schedule of trained volunteers.

Why?
There are so many reasons to walk to school! Here are our top 5:

  • Exercise

The Center for Disease Control recommends that Children and adolescents should have 60 minutes (1 hour) or more of physical activity daily. Walking to and from school is a great way to accomplish this and to build strong bones and muscles!

  • Academics

Research shows that exercise in the morning improves student test scores. According to a 2012 Danish study children’s concentration level, and in turn, their academics performance, improves when they walk to school. The effect of such exercise lasts about 4 hours.

  • Know your neighborhood

Kids who walk and bike to school get to know and navigate their neighborhood better then those who do not.

  • Know your friends

Walking to school is social and fun. It’s a great way for kids to talk to their friends and family in a comfortable and non-structured environment.

  • Influence your community

Drivers tend to drive more cautiously when people are walking and biking in the area, making the community safer. Kids who walk to school also contribute to less traffic congestion and help to improve air quality near schools.

Where?
Walking routes can originate from a particular neighborhood or a parking lot, park, etc. They can operate daily, weekly or monthly. Walking School Buses can include kids who live close or far away from school grounds.

How
Currently, the Sharon Safe Routes To School Committee is helping to organize Walking School Buses in the community. If you are interested in learning where a Walking School Bus is in your area or if you would like to start your own Walking School Bus, please contact Committee Chair, Sandra Widland at swidland@gmail.com