“Walking school buses” at Travell and Ridge elementary schools began picking up children each morning last week, bringing them to class in groups supervised by a parent.
The program began amid the Ridgewood school district's “Walk-toberfest,” a broader month-long initiative to promote health and safety by encouraging children to walk to school.
Jeanne Johnson, a Ridgewood resident and Safe Routes to School coordinator, said that the idea is to decrease congestion around the school buildings, in turn reducing traffic hazards, pollution and giving children the morning exercise proven to boost academic performance.
“It helps make a more connected and vibrant community where people are out walking the community and experiencing nature,” she said of the initiative.
The “walking school buses” work similarly to their automotive predecessors, according to those involved. Students make three to five scheduled stops in the morning, picking up other children along the way. A parent is on hand the entire way, though the exact details vary by block.
Maggie DeVita, who coordinates the effort for Travell parents, said that the program is built on what some neighborhoods had already done each morning, and parents on certain blocks tweak the strategy to suit their needs.
“You take the flavor of the street and see what people can do to make it work,” she said. “We’re trying to make it easier for them to have the option to walk.”
While there are now only a few
routes each at the two schools, organizers hope that the fledgling program will not
only expand within the school communities but spread to other elementary
schools around town. They also hope it will be a year-round mode of transportation.
“Hopefully it catches on, people start talking about it and we can get more people interested,” DeVita said.