The wheels on a new school bus in Jackson are actually feet. For the month of September, Teton County School District #1 is piloting a new program to get students walking to and from school rather than taking the bus.
There’s still a set route guided by at least one adult, who picks up kids at stops along the way. Charlotte Reynolds, information coordinator for Teton County schools, said the Walking School Bus is a national initiative the district decided to try after realizing it needed to reduce some of its bus routes to meet state regulations.
If a route is deemed unnecessary then it’s not reimbursable by the state. So in response to decreasing state funding for education, the district chose to experiment with unique ways to reduce their transportation costs.
Reynolds said this fiscal solution offered physical benefits for kids. “It really promotes that idea of physical fitness, being outdoors, being active, getting a little fresh air before you start your school day and it’s a good way to conclude your school day.”
If elementary students live within one mile of school, and their route is safe with sufficient sidewalks and crosswalks, then technically districts do not need to provide transportation. The Walking School Bus pilot was initiated to ease the transition, but Reynolds said the program might stick around.
“Depending on how well it is received that will provide the direction for where we go with this. In terms of continuing it for the rest of the school year for this particular route but also considering other routes.”
According to the Safe Routes to School National Partnership, physical activity and fitness boost learning and memory, and help kids stay on task and fidget less.