Make Back to School a Walk in the Park!

  1. Paperwork filled out… check!
  2. School supplies bought and organized… check!
  3. Calendar updated with important school dates… check!

This time of year, many parents and teachers are working through their own personal checklists to prepare for their students to go back to school. With all that needs to be done, planning to incorporate safe, fun, active transportation in how students get to school can all too frequently fall to the bottom of your list or go unconsidered completely.

Back to School is a great time to start new habits and routines. Rethinking, trying and changing the way your students get to school can have important outcomes. Exploring healthy options to get to school could mean:

  • Built in physical activity for the day
  • Students who show up to school ready to learn
  • Higher student achievement and academic performance
  • Less traffic and better air quality around the school
  • Potentially a shorter commute

Even with all the benefits, it can be difficult to find an active, transportation option that makes you feel confident and safe. Here are three important things to consider when planning for the various ways your students could get to school.

Walkers & Bikers

  • Plan and try the walking/biking route before school starts: Make a fun evening practicing walking/biking to school with the family for a trip to the playground. You won’t be rushed and can go over the pedestrian or biking skills your students need along the route.
  • Think bright and light when shopping: Purchase backpacks and jackets in bright colors and reflective materials so your students can be seen easily while walking or biking. Consider the padded back and strap width for comfort while being active.
  • Start a Walking School Bus or Bike Train: Connect with other parents within the neighborhood and along a route. Work together or rotate who will supervise the students certain mornings of the week/month. Check out these walking school bus resources from the Safe Routes Partnership for more help.

Bus riders

  • Stay out of the road while waiting for the bus: Stand at least 6 feet away from the curb when waiting.
  • Approach when the bus and other traffic has stopped: Wait until the bus is fully stopped with the doors open before approaching. When having to cross the street to approach, make sure other traffic stops and that you have the OK from the bus driver.
  • Cross in front of the bus: When crossing a road to approach the bus, cross with at least 10 feet and make eye contact with the driver of the bus.

Private Cars/Carpools

  • Avoid distractions and be aware that students are out on the road: Make sure phones are away on your commute to school. and that students can be hard around buses and other cars. Move with caution.
  • Follow all signs regarding speeding, bus warnings, and no parking/standing: Dropping off and pick off at school may be your only option. Make safe decisions along the way and at the school that impact students who are walking, biking, and busing to school.
  • Consider a Remote Drop: Save yourself the drop-off line and identify a drop off location where you can walk a short distance with your student. You’ll get the benefits of the walk, less congestion to navigate, and reduce emissions directly around the school.

School Administration

  • Include information about travel options at orientation: Highlight any walking school buses, walking routes, remote drop off sites, changes to bus stops, and proper drop off procedures when you have parents’ attention. at school orientation
  • Provide maps and other travel information online/with newsletters: Reinforce orientation travel information with a section on the website or helpful Safe Routes to School program tips in newsletters.
  • Set an example: Supporting staff members’ choice to walk/bike to school, encourage leadership of a walking school bus, or the opportunity for staff to be “featured celebrity” by joining a walking route for special walking/biking days.

Respect for and knowledge of each mode of transportation which a student could use to get to school can go a long way in keeping students safe. No matter how a student gets to school, they deserve to get there safely.

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