The Walking School Bus
New Safe Routes-Funded Initiative Promotes Exercise For Schoolchildren
Posted: February 14, 2013
Waterman Elementary School second-grader Gideon James, 7, holds a sign while walking to school with his mother, Hillary James, Wednesday morning. The students and parents are calling themselves the Waterman Walking School Bus, who walk or ride bikes to school every Wednesday. (Photo by Nikki Fox / DN-R)
But as the heavy yellow machine pulled up and pushed open its doors, the group smiled and waved it on its way to Waterman Elementary School.
For the rest of the school year, the scene will be repeated every Wednesday because of the new “Waterman Walking School Bus” — a caravan of young walkers and bikers and chaperones that prefers to get in a quick morning workout.
“It’s better walking than riding in a car,” said Jeylor Velasquez, 10. “[Riding in a car] you use more electricity and you don’t get much exercise.”
The group was organized by Becky Johnston, health promotion specialist at Rockingham Memorial Hospital Community Health. Johnston works with schools to promote walking and biking to school as a way to combat childhood obesity.
The children, flanked by parents and carrying signs, paraded up the street Wednesday to Waterman Elementary School. Another group left from the corner of Hartman Drive and Gay Street to reach the school.
Each Wednesday, children interested in participating can meet at those locations. Parents must accompany their children.
“I hope word spreads and there are more interested parents who will work with their neighbors to get more kids walking to school,” Johnston said.
Johnston says similar initiatives are in the works at Keister Elementary School in Harrisonburg and Plains and Mountain View elementary schools in Rockingham County. All four schools were chosen to receive funds from the federal Safe Routes to Schools program to install infrastructure to make walking or biking to school safer.
Funds from the federal program are administered by the Virginia Department of Transportation.
The city is reviewing four bids for safety improvements and additions around Waterman scheduled to begin in March, including sidewalks and a pedestrian crossing walk signal. Bids range from $477,202 to $741,509.
“I walk here every day,” said 8-year-old Malia Bauman. “It’s actually really good exercise before you go to school. You can burn calories before you go in.”
Contact Emily Sharrer at 574-6286 or email@example.com