Students participated Wednesday January 18 in the kick-off of a weekly walk-to-school program at Howe Avenue Elementary. Every Wednesday morning, parent volunteers will meet students at set times and locations, and will walk set routes to school—a program known as a “walking school bus.” Typically, at locations across the county, walking school buses only run on the way to school. Howe Avenue Elementary parents, however, are ambitious—they will also be walking students in the afternoon from school to the meet-up locations. Furthermore, parents will be positioned at both ends of a key crosswalk in front of school to hand flags to crossing students. The idea is that if students are waving flags they will be more visible to drivers and will send a message to drivers to respect pedestrians’ right to cross the street.
Howe Avenue Elementary parents’ interest in a walking program stems from their desires to make walking to and from school safer, and to decrease traffic around school. WALKSacramento has been working closely with Howe Avenue Elementary Principal Tim Murphy and a group of parent volunteers comprising the Traffic Safety Committee to set up the walking program since last September. We’ve provided guidance to the Traffic Safety Committee as they identified what routes to walk, which materials are needed, and how to organize volunteers. WALKSacramento staff is very impressed with how many great ideas the parents have and how quickly they have crafted a great program.
Volunteers are working now to improve promotion among teachers, parents, and students through classroom announcements, flyers sent home, and small prizes for participating students. They are also working on making volunteering as a walk leader fun and easy. Come spring, warm weather, and longer days, the walking program will by a finely-tuned machine ready for lots of students to participate.
Also a part of the effort to increase the safety of walking to Howe Avenue Elementary, a walk audit of streets around campus was held last November. Participants included WALKSacramento staff, the Traffic Safety Committee and Howe Avenue Elementary staff, San Juan Unified School District staff, and representatives from the Sacramento County Department of Transportation (SacDOT). A draft of the walk audit report is currently being reviewed by SacDOT, and could be used to help inform a future Safe Routes to School grant application. We will post the report on the WALKSacramento website when it is approved.
To everyone at Howe Avenue Elementary—it is a pleasure working with you all. Congratulations on the launch of your walk-to-school program!