Active Kids Are Doing Better at This Rhode Island School

Walking School buses are a great way for parents to promote healthy and safe habits, while spending quality time with their children. And with volunteer shortages at many schools, it is the perfect opportunity for PTAs to step in and make a difference.

The following post is reposted from the Safe Routes to School Blog.

This South Providence Elementary School Had a Chronic Absenteeism Problem. Then They Started a Walking School Bus.

At first, the maps didn’t make sense. Why would the kids who lived closest to school – all within one mile – have the most problems with chronic absenteeism?

That’s the question staff at Providence Children’s Initiative (PCI), a Family Service of Rhode Island program working to address chronic absenteeism in the low-income area of South Providence, Rhode Island, asked themselves after mapping out the homes of families in the district that had the most problems with attendance.

Then, PCI figured out that Providence School District doesn’t provide school bus service to families living within one mile of school. For low-income families who aren’t eligible for bus transportation, not owning a car, having parents that work morning shifts, or having children attend different schools meant that transportation was an obstacle to attendance. The students lived close enough to walk to school, but with ages ranging from five to twelve years old, families weren’t comfortable letting them walk alone. That’s when the team at PCI came up with the idea of starting a walking school bus program with volunteer adult chaperones to accompany the kids to school, explained Allyson Trentrseaux, then an intern at PCI.

Students walk with volunteer Audrey.

Students walk with volunteer Audrey.

The first step was reaching out to the families to explain the idea and get them on board. PCI sent home papers with the students announcing the walking school bus, but there was not much of a response. Then they tried calling homes, but found that many of the numbers were out of order. Finally, Allyson and her team decided to go door-to-door. After visiting with the families and explaining the walking school bus program, PCI found that there was solid support for starting a program that would allow students to walk to school safely.


The “Blue Line” with volunteer Erin.

The first walking school bus started in September 2012 with one route – the purple line – and six students walking to and from school every day. Now, the program has expanded to two schools, four routes, and 30 kids who walk to and from school every day. Since the program started, 100 percent of participating students have improved their attendance at school.

“The kids love it. Our volunteers are on a consistent schedule so the students can get to know them, and they also get to meet local “celebrities” who walk with them sometimes, such as the Providence Police, the State Police, and even the Governor. Plus, with recess time getting cut, walking to school gives them a chance to get more exercise and be outside,” said Allyson.

And Providence Police sometimes accompany students on the walk to school.

And Providence Police sometimes accompany students on the walk to school.

The program is so successful that there is now a waitlist of students who want to participate. The only thing holding PCI back from adding more routes is a shortage of volunteers. Some of the walking school bus chaperones are PCI staff, but most are volunteers – including teachers and physical education instructors volunteering their time, members of a local community service organization, and nearby college students. With additional volunteers, PCI hopes to expand the program to reach more kids at Fogarty and Bailey and to serve additional schools in the area.

Rhode Island Governor Chafee gets ready to walk.

Rhode Island Governor Chafee gets ready to walk.

Congratulations to Providence Children’s Institute for launching a walking school bus program that makes sure kids are getting to school AND getting active. Does your school or community have a similar story to share about active transportation? Submit your success stories about increasing opportunities for physical activity through Complete Streets, shared use agreements and Safe Routes to School and we might spotlight your story nationally next!

Read more on Margaux Mennesson’s blog

Get Moving to Raise More Money for your School

FUYF_BlogResearch proves that active kids do better, which means that it is more important than ever for schools and communities to promote an active lifestyle and create healthy environments for students. The National PTA has come out in full support of promoting the benefits of physical activity for kids, including greater academic achievement, better classroom attention, and improved physical and mental health.

Schools can be the heart of health if they have the right wellness resources and funds in place. That’s why it makes sense to have a healthy, easy fundraising option for your school group that is centered around physical activity AND helps your school and community create a healthy environment.

Fire Up Your Feet is a healthy fundraising option that rewards parents and families that are already making a point of incorporating physical activity into their daily routine. For families that want to set a goal around getting more physical activity, the Fire Up Your Feet Healthy fundraising option offers the community a chance to cheer participants toward meeting their wellness goals, while contributing to a cause that can further reinforce overall community health and wellness efforts.

The free fundraising platform tools offers a game-changing approach to traditional fundraising, helping schools easily manage donations in a safe and secure online environment twith no upfront costs, saving you and other parent volunteers hours of time and not having to manually collect and manage pledges.

Best of all, 75% of the money raised back to each PTA or school group to support its wellness initiatives and benefits nationwide efforts to build communities that encourage active, healthy living, while the other 25% goes to support the Safe Routes to School National Partnership, whose mission is to advance policy and programs that improve access to parks, playgrounds, walking paths, bike lanes, and other safe places to be active in everyday life.

Healthy fundraising is the best way for kids and parents to do fun activities together, be healthy, and raise money to make a big difference for your own school. You can raise funds to support all kinds of resources for your school such as:

  • New bike racks so students can ride to school and store their bikes securely during the school day
  • New recess and gym equipment
  • A cafeteria salad bar so students have additional healthy food choices
  • Improvements to nearby street crossings and bicycle paths

Fun runs and walk-a-thons aren’t just valuable because they’re healthy – they’re also successful. So Fire Up Your Feet to help your school, PTA group, and family get moving and raise money to create an active, healthy school.

Margaux Mennesson is communications manager for the Safe Routes to School National Partnership. Fire Up Your Feet is a core program of the National Partnership.