New ‘walking school bus’ will get strolling this week

The South Whidbey Parks & Recreation District will kick off its “walking school bus” program for South Whidbey students and parents this week.

Currently, parents bring their children down to Maxwelton Road to wait for the school bus, usually leaving their cars idling along the street.

Starting June 13, the park district is participating in an Island County Health Department-sponsored project to encourage parents to reduce that idling while waiting for the bus.

“We hope parents will consolidate their efforts by driving to the Community Park and dropping their kids off,” said parks director Terri Arnold. “Volunteers will escort their children the one-eighth mile to the primary and intermediate schools.

“When all of us hit the road, we’re a walking school bus.”

The plan is for parents, students, teachers and staff to arrive at 7:45 a.m. Friday at the basketball courts near the entrance of Community Park. Parents’ vehicles can be parked at the basketball courts and kids can unload their bicycles there as well.

Once the group of walkers has assembled, they will be led by Arnold along Maxwelton Road, which will be marked with bright orange cones for safety. Once all the children have been escorted to their respective schools, parents and volunteers will return to their vehicles.

At the end of the school day, adult volunteers will meet the buses at each of the schools and escort them back to Community Park. Once back to the starting point, healthy snacks will be served to inspire kids and families to eat nutrionally and exercise regularly.

“The concept of a walking school bus made sense to the district because of its close proximity to the schools,” Arnold said.

Arnold hopes the program launch is well attended because she wants to see the program become a regular activity beginning next school year.

Whitney Webber, program coordinator for Island County Health, is helping support the project by providing backpacks for students on kick-off day. The backpacks are full of health-related activity guides, magazines and important safety gear.

For details, call Arnold at 221-5484.

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