Posts Tagged ‘lyndale community school’
Tuesday, September 27th, 2011
For a group of parents in Minneapolis, the old admonishment, “When I was your age, we walked to school, uphill, both ways,” is losing its effectiveness. Now, their children can simply reply, “Me too.” That’s because families of the Lyndale Community School have built a robust walking school bus program, led by parent volunteers. Scott Bordon, one of the volunteers who spearheaded the effort, shares how they got started.
You lead and organize a “walking school bus” in the Lyndale neighborhood. Can you tell us what a “walking school bus” is and how you got involved?
The route actually starts in Kingfield and then crosses into the Lyndale neighborhood where Lyndale Community School is located. A walking school bus is similar to motorized yellow school bus in that it has a set route and schedule with pick up stops, but students walk instead of ride. Parent volunteers lead the route (at least one in front and back). Parents serve as crossing guards and utilize stop paddles and safety vests.
During Changing School Option, a Minneapolis Public Schools (MPS) District effort to get students closer to home, we switched our children to Lyndale Community School. Although we lived just outside the walk zone at Lyndale, we and other parents were excited for our children to walk to school–and chose to completely forgo the school bus. What started with just a small effort grew to a school-wide initiative when Lyndale Principal Ossie Brooks-James said let’s participate in International Walk to School Day. As a result, Julie Danzl from the Minneapolis School District encouraged me to apply for a Safe Routes to School mini-grant. Being awarded $1,000 grant helped expand our efforts, allowing us to buy stop paddles and safety vests, make t-shirts, and expand to more routes.
What’s the difference between walking and taking the bus to school for your kids? Why not just take the regular morning bus?
The difference is huge. Our kids get a gentle start, in the sunlight, in the neighborhood–moving fluidly between friends, rather than in a “stay in your seat,” dark school bus. Walking to school also prepares them for independence in a way the school bus or being driven to school can’t–children learn their way around the neighborhood and how to navigate city streets safely. Neighbors and motorists smile and wave at the sight of the block-long line of children walking to school. I don’t think the yellow bus elicits the same reaction.
How many families are involved in your walking school bus? What kind of route do you take? How long does it take?
We have four different routes. The original route operates every day and has more than 30 children. All these children live outside the walk zone–a little more than half a mile away. This bus runs everyday, rain, sun, snow, and wind and has never been late (not too many fossil fuel buses can say that!). Students that once attended more than seven different schools now walk this route to Lyndale.
The other three other routes operate in the fall and spring one or two times a week. Those routes range from 10 to 30 children. The routes are mapped mainly based on availability of parent volunteers and proximity to students. These routes are about one mile long–but some students walk further to reach the first designated stop.
Kids love walking to school. At Lyndale, we are fortunate to have a culturally and economically diverse student population. There is enthusiasm for walking throughout Lyndale students. Often students embrace the idea of walking to school and their parents are the ones who need convincing. And the kids are proud when they have walked to school–they’ve accomplished something for themselves and also for the environment.
Have you heard of other walking school buses around the metro? The country? Is this a part of a growing nationwide trend you’ve noticed?
Yes. This simple idea “has legs” and is part of a solution for so many modern problems–pollution, obesity, school budget shortages, alienation and lack of community. People call me or Lyndale School regularly to learn how they can set up walking buses for their own children. This school year Minneapolis Public Schools will work to implement Safe Routes walk and bike to school programming in ten additional schools. You can find walking bus websites and videos from around the country.
What tips or advice do you have for other families or parents wanting to start their own neighborhood walking school bus?
All it takes is a few committed parent volunteers and a supportive administration. The National Center for Safe Routes to School is a great resource. Participating in International Walk to School Day is another great way to get involved. Once people walk together once–they will want to do it again. And again. At Lyndale we’ve added to the fun of walking to school with music, t-shirts, “I Walked/I Biked” stickers, special guest walkers (once, even Mayor R.T. Rybak) and a Walking Bus newsletter with student-voices and “news from the routes.” We’ve celebrated the arrival of the walking buses with Somali Tea. Our principal, teachers, and PTA have a “yes” attitude, a “let’s try it and see” perspective. I’d tell parents, “Go for it!” Figure out what works for your school community. One committed person can make all the difference.
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