The inaugural run, which originally was planned for March 26—the Monday following spring break—was delayed by weather until April 4. Seven students participated.
“But since then our numbers have increased each time,” Yoder said. “We now have 19 kids registered. Our volunteer leaders have increased in numbers a bit also. Six adults have days when they’ve indicated they can help.”
Each volunteer leader has undergone a background check and has participated in an orientation time.
Students and adults who participate are easily identified by the shirts and vests they wear.
“The visibility of the group is certainly drawing attention, which I believe is good for the safety aspect of everyone who walks or rides in town,” Yoder said.
The program could use more adult volunteers, he added. The bus runs only a morning route so far; volunteers can sign up for days that best suit them.
“With the number of riders increasing, it would be nice to have at least three adults each morning,” Yoder said. “If people would just contact the elementary school, we could get them signed up.
“We’ll take people who can only commit to limited numbers of days a week or month,” he added. “Someone had suggested having each church in town make a commitment next fall to sponsor the bus for month. That sounded like a winning idea to me.”
The Walking School Bus program is intended to meet a number of objectives. One is the physical benefit that comes with walking. Another is providing a safe and convenient alternative for families who otherwise would need to drive their students to school each day—which also reduces vehicle traffic near the elementary school.
Yoder believes the benefits of the program continue inside the school building itself.
“While we haven’t done a study academically on how the riders are performing in school, I can’t help but think this is a benefit,” he said.
Despite the weather challenges, Yoder is still enthused about the Walking School Bus.
“I think it’s a great program,” he said. “I’ve been impressed with how much the kids seem to enjoy the walk to school. I imagine this must be what it was like years ago when most town kids walked or rode to school.
“Hopefully, this is the beginning of a lifetime habit of realizing the benefits of exercise and healthful living.”