Kansas’s statewide Walking School Bus programs, funded through the Kansas Department of Transportation, proved successful for students and schools. KDOT contracted with PedNet, a nonprofit organization dedicated to active transportation based in Columbia, Mo., to create 15 WSB programs throughout the state, including Great Bend and Hoisington. However, in the end, 17 schools implemented a WSB.
In total, those 17 schools had 54 routes, 298 volunteers and 715 children. This makes it one of the largest and most successful Safe Routes to School projects in the United States.
These are a good thing and provide many benefits to the students, said Bryan Scott, physical education teacher and WSB coordinator at Great Bend’s Riley Elementary School. “They are more active, they have abilities to interact with each other, and they make it to school on time.”
A significant accomplishment of this project is sustainability from the participating schools. The grant funded project has ended. However, to date, 11 of the 17 schools have either committed funding, or located funding, to continue the WSB on their own.
This many schools agreeing to fund the program is noteworthy on its own for SRTS projects, but it is especially meaningful considering Kansas education is experiencing unprecedented budget cuts. This shows their confidence in the benefits and successes of the WSB for their students and schools.
Over two semesters, children walked a total of 748,000 minutes. This averages to be 1,200 minutes of physical activity per child. Further, one school saw a 40 percent decrease in the number of tardy students at their school. The principal attributes this difference entirely to the WSB.
Hats off to our area educators for understanding the importance of this valuable program.