On Monday, April 13, in the crisp early morning air, students from the Parker Elementary School in New Bedford left their homes to walk to school together, officially kicking off the school’s first walking school bus. With help from Safe Routes to School and Mass in Motion New Bedford, the school carefully planned a 1.0 mile route throughout the nearby neighborhood where a significant number of students live. The walking school bus, chaperoned by teachers, is a way for neighborhood children to safely walk to with their peers.
Many parents at Parker Elementary welcomed the walking school bus as a great resource for their children to get to school in the morning. Getting children to school can be a challenge for many parents because buses are often not available for students living within one or two miles of their school and some parents are fearful of letting their children walk alone. Walking school buses alleviate the pressure on busy parents to drive their children to school, and ease the worry about young students walking alone.
Additionally, walking school buses help children achieve the recommended one hour of physical activity a day, by creating an easy opportunity for exercise first thing in the morning. Walking school buses provide this important benefit, and also have been shown to reduce neighborhood crime, reduce absentees and tardiness, and help prepare children to better learn.
On the day of the kickoff, nine children participated, along with three teachers, Superintendent Pia Durkin, Mayor Jonathan Mitchell, and staff from Safe Routes to School and Mass in Motion New Bedford. Over the past two weeks, the walking school bus has already grown to 14 students, and will continue on a daily basis, hopefully attracting more children each day. This one walking school bus has the potential to serve as a resource for up to 60 children who live along the route.
Walking school buses are one initiative of the Safe Routes to School Program, of which we are a proud partner. This effort was led jointly by Mass in Motion New Bedford, parents, staff, and the school principal at Parker Elementary School, and Erin Reed, the statewide coordinator for Safe Routes to Schools.
If you are interested in starting a walking school bus in your community, please visit the Safe Routes to School website to download their Walking School Bus Guide.